Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is breast cancer that has spread outside the breast to other parts of the body. Being told that I was no longer in remission and cancer has metastasized, created a whirl of emotions in me. I was completely numb all through the series of test and procedures that would follow this horrific news.
My distended stomach was as a result of ascites. Ascites happens when pressure builds up in the veins of your liver. This pressure blocks flow and inhibit’s the kidneys from removing excess salt, thereby causing fluid to build up in the stomach, thereby causing the distention that was physically noticed.
Symptoms I Experienced:
- Excessive Burping: It was very unpolite I knew, but however hard I tried, I couldn’t suppress my burps. My most embarrassing moment was when we had gone to have lunch and in a bid to suppress my burp, I ended up sounding like a roaring lion. I was stared at and was immensely ashamed. Unbeknownst to me, being embarrassed was nothing compared to the end results of my burps.
- Excessive Flatulence: Who would have thought right? I experienced excess flatulence and initially, we laughed about it and I was playfully teased that I was gross. I really didn’t think at the time that farting would mean cancer was back and I am emphatically saying to everyone reading, do not take anything for granted. If you notice anything out of the normal, no matter how little…see a doctor.
- Shortness of breath: I was unable to use the stairs as I would normally. I experienced shortness of breath with any little exertion including talking.
- Distended Stomach: I physically looked heavily pregnant and I got several people congratulating me and asking me the sex of the baby. I knew I wasn’t pregnant so this just made me stay indoors while I figured out what was going on.
- Loss of appetite and weight gain: I couldn’t eat and even if I tried, I would vomit. Even in the absence of good nutrition, I was gaining weight in the tons.
After I had CT and MRI and it was confirmed that the breast cancer had metastasized as manifested in all the aforementioned symptoms, I had to start diagnostic and therapeutic paracentesis.
Paracentesis is a procedure in which excess fluid is removed from the stomach using a needle. Diagnostic paracentesis is done for testing, to determine the cause of the fluid build-up and check for infections, while therapeutic is done to ease the patient of the burden.
After draining six liters of water out of my stomach, I immediately lost ten pounds. Boy! it was a huge relief, I can’t begin to explain how I felt. I had to do this twice while in the intensive care unit in the hospital.
A nephrostomy tube is a thin plastic tube that is inserted into the kidney, to help drain urine onto a plastic bag that hangs outside your body. I had a nephrostomy tube inserted in my right kidney so I had my bag of urine hanging on a holster-like clip around my right thigh.
To cut the long story short I had a bag of urine dangling on my thigh and I had to empty it as it fills up. I had this tube in for four painful, long months.
I had to start targeted chemotherapy again. At the point where the disease was, I had to have chemotherapy once monthly in an attempt to shrink the cancer cells or keep them from growing. This chemotherapy will continue indefinitely as there was no specific treatment plan.
My Emotional Reaction:
I was devastated. All of my dreams were immediately halted as I had to completely face my health. I couldn’t achieve any goals with a tube jutting out of my back and a bag of urine hanging on my thigh.
To say I was heartbroken is putting it mildly. I had to relive every bit of the nightmare called cancer. This time the doctor wasn’t saying we could cure cancer, but saying we will try to prolong your life. AH!!! I cried to God and he listened. I am alive and striving. Although I am still in treatment but is there anything too big for God??? NO!
I felt pity for my lover and best friend. He didn’t sign up for this caregiver role and even though he stood by me, I could imagine how horrible it was for him. Having a partner with no motivation and is confined to a bed/couch is not a fun thing. He compassionately tended to my drains and cooked for four months while I was confined to the bed.
It is very possible for life to throw challenges at you. It is left to you to choose how to react to those challenges. MBC is persistent and I have resolved not to give into to its ugliness so I am relentless and I am living my best life ever. God has been immensely faithful to me because I keep waking up every day to a selfless and caring partner, an awesome family, and wonderful friends.
Feel free to share your challenges and your success stories. Although everything may seem dark and unpromising while you are facing difficulties, always remember that there is nothing impossible with God!