Reading the post Kate shared with us, expressing her feelings of loss, clinging to hope for others, we were honored to share this essay with our readers. We remember just a few of our sisters who will not be here with us this Christmas. For all the Susan’s, Lori‘s, and Evon’s. We remember and we will continue on. Hope always, Terry
I was never much interested in gambling, or a very good gambler. Whenever I entered a casino, I would limit my spending to $20.00. Unfamiliar with most table games (and not having the required minimum bet), I would stick to the slot machines. I’m old enough to have played the actual coin slots and loved the clatter of nickels tumbling out into my plastic cup after the occasional win. However, I rarely left the casino ahead of the game. The usual scenario would be losing the entire $20.00 in about fifteen minutes. I knew if I dared bet more, it would disappear in short order.
I am now in a place where my very life is a gamble. In 2009 I beat the 3% chance that cancer would occur after a double mastectomy and reconstruction. I was diagnosed with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer. IBC is a somewhat rare and aggressive form of breast cancer that appears in the lymph system and spreads rapidly to other areas. I now had metastatic breast cancer, of an aggressive type that had spread to a bone in my spine before I had the time to finish the medical testing to confirm the diagnosis. Four and a half years later, I am still traveling the roads of cancer land, where I have been both privileged and saddened to meet several hundred other women who share my Stage IV status. Far too many of these wonderful women have passed away. They were teachers, doctors, authors, private business owners and mothers – all now gone from this earth. They were interested in politics, traveling, sports and advocacy. Several were mothers, some with young children. And I watched each of them endure treatment after treatment causing devastating side effects, each desperately seeking the poison that would make the cancer stop. These women loved life. All of them wanted to live.
Surviving the gamble
We who survive live every day gambling that we might win just one more. One more day to spend with those we love. One more day to feel the sun or the rain, and one more chance to do the activities we love. One more day hoping for a breakthrough cure, or at least another drug that will let us stay a bit longer. One more bet that our current chemotherapy will work, one more scan away from finding that it did not.
Beating the odds
And far too many do not find a drug that works. Three of my dear friends did not get one more chance. They all lost their lives to IBC this year. Sadly, they were not the only ones, just the few I knew the best. I miss their humor, their support, their thoughts and their presence. Just last year, Susan and I were following the presidential election closely. Evon and I were sharing remedies for the side effects of the drug we were both taking and Lori had us all sharing pictures of our favorite Christmas decorations. I still can’t quite believe they are gone.
Rest in peace dear sisters
Katheen Strosser, a retired Associate Professor at Edinboro Univesity of PA. Kate has been living with Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer since April, 2009. She is currently on a new chemotherapy agent approved just this past February, Kadcyla (Genentech), is a combination of herceptin and emtansine. Kate is hopeful that continued research will find an answer to stop the metastatic process and allow her to spend many more years with her children and grand-daughters.