08/22/2012 11:48 am ET Updated Oct 21, 2012

Me and My Shadow: Six Years Later

It's very difficult to describe a disease and the overall toll it takes as in my case of stage IV breast cancer. Back in 2005, I had lower back pain and sought out several pain management doctors. Different doctors had different theories, and prescribed different treatments. One theory was that since my youthful husband had passed away suddenly a year prior, it was just stress. Now I truly believe it may be partially true, that it perhaps helped to wake up a dormant cancer that really never left.

Having had my (primary) breast cancer at a young age in 1994, and being told I was cured, I never, ever thought of cancer! Finally, after a year of unrelenting debilitating pain, I suggested a bone scan. The scan showed nothing except for arthritis; so I was told. With this new diagnosis I was put on NSAIDs, to which I had a very bad reaction and stopped them.

Meanwhile, a year had gone by and I still had this pain that was increasing to an uncontrolled state. Finally, I sought the help of an oncologist. I asked him to schedule an MRI of my lower spine; he hesitated as the other doctors had done and said, "Why, you look so good." I literally convinced him the pain was real and... Duh, I did have a history of cancer.

The oncologist saw me again a week later, looked me directly in the face, and said, "You have breast cancer." I replied, "that's impossible, I have done everything I was suppose to do." I had a good diet, was svelte, exercised, had frequent mammograms and exams. I was stymied -- how could I have breast cancer again, only this time stage IV? Subsequently, I was told to start radiation on my sacrum.

I did not start radiation, as I had had eight weeks of it the first time around and remembered how grueling it was. I was determined to find a doctor who would prove this all wrong. I began going around the country seeking out one oncologist after another. To this day, I have sold homes, given away precious animals, and moved from family to find "the answer." Currently, I have seen my sixteenth oncologist in the six years with this ordeal I call (my shadow). Initially I was given two years to live, stage IV five-year survival stats are still very low. I don't believe in stats, as I have just recently come upon the six-year mark! I have refused chemo five times, but I did finally acquiesce to 85 rounds of radiation on my bones.

I never really got used to (my shadow), however, I stopped worrying about it so much perhaps two years ago. It has been said the stress alone can be a catalyst in this disease, too. Living with (my shadow) has been a long and arduous task these past six years -- I sometimes amaze myself and give up a little grin, now and then.

I am now a firm believer in diet, exercise, meditation, and yoga, and went vegan the first of January this year. Also I have an indomitable spirit, faith, hope, and strength that surfaced with the disease, strength I never even knew I had.

Six years is a long time in stage-IV-land, I'm hoping for at least another six. You see, I plan to be around for the "true cure" so that I might finally part with my constant companion and reminder of this insidious disease, (my shadow)!

Until next time,



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