In Loving
Memory of Cathy

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This is Cathy’s story.

Diagnosis: I started off having pain in my left shoulder and was having difficulty lifting things up. Within a couple of weeks, pain started in my back and hips but I sit all day at my job and had felt pain like that before so it wasn’t anything new per se. My friend suggested I try acupuncture, so I did that and physical therapy but it didn’t seem to be getting any better. Then one morning I couldn’t get out of bed…but I managed to get to a walk-in clinic and they were like ‘you probably have fibromyalgia, so we’ll do a couple of tests to see what’s going on with that.’ He also suggested some blood work to rule out rheumatoid arthritis or whatever and that test came back with something weird on it. They couldn’t figure out what it was so they wanted me to see a rheumatologist. Two weeks after that I was in so much pain my mom had to come and help me out with things because I just couldn’t do it myself.

I finally went to the hospital a couple of days after Christmas because the pain was just unbearable – I couldn’t even walk up the 3 steps to my brother’s house to give his kids their Christmas presents – it was so bad I was crying and screaming in pain. Once at the hospital I explained to the doctor I saw about the fibromyalgia and how I was being sent to a rheumatologist and he did another blood test immediately. He compared the 2 blood tests I had and said, ‘your kidneys are shutting down.’

At that point I was sent by ambulance to Edmonton for more tests, and with my kidneys shutting down and everything they saw I was told ‘you either have an issue with your endocrine system or you have cancer.’ As soon as they said the word cancer, I just had that feeling, I just knew. Before they even told me, I knew.

I didn’t know anything about breast cancer at that point. I hadn’t looked into it. I hadn’t researched it. Nobody in my family had had breast cancer. I think I found the symptoms I had on cancer websites and I was like, apparently I have stage 4 breast cancer and it’s metastatic.

I had fallen out of bed when I had my biopsy and I broke a lot of things…I fractured my left shoulder, my sternum as well as the right side of my pelvis and ended up having to use a wheelchair. I had never broken or fractured a bone in my body until my cancer diagnosis. Right now I’ve fractured both sides of my pelvis, my sternum, quite a few of my vertebrae and both of my shoulders. I have what is called pathological fractures. I can tie my shoelaces and my shoulder will fracture. That’s the cancer. That’s what I live with every day. If I fall, I could just shatter like a china doll. My whole torso is just full of cancer.

Treatment: Thankfully, as far as my bones go, I’ve been pretty stable since I started chemo…though the cancer has gone into my brain…it’s inoperable…but at least it hasn’t spread further into my bones and it hasn’t gone into any organs.

I’ve accepted the fact that at some point I’m going to die. The worst for me, I think, is October – Breast Cancer Month…it’s everywhere…and I’ll be lucky to live 5 years after I was diagnosed. For me, it’s hard to see breast cancer portrayed in the media as, ‘I get a double mastectomy, I get some radiation and I’m cured,’ when that’s not necessarily everyone’s reality. Every week, I see more and more woman have died and it’s absolutely devastating to me. You see all the stats and I don’t blame people for being angry for having breast cancer. I was angry. But then I thought, I can’t be angry about it because if I only have 5 years, I want to make the best of them.

Living with mBC: I want to be able to do as much as I can before my quality of life declines any further. Depending on how mobile I feel, I have to rely on either a walker or a wheelchair to get around. There really is no point in me being angry for an extended period of time if when I’m done with that stage I may not be able to do anything with my time left because I’m even further disabled…and that’s not how I want to live the rest of my days.
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