By Bobbi Jo Beitz
I am a woman. I am active. I am a mom. I am also living with metastatic breast cancer, and I am living well.
I have been active all my life. I played a variety of sports ever since I was little, like competitive fastball and hockey. So, how could a super active, fit, and healthy individual, with no breast cancer or any other type of cancer in her family, all of a sudden be told she has stage IV breast cancer?
I first heard “you have metastatic breast cancer” on December 5, 2019. I had never even heard of metastatic breast cancer. I was scared and shocked. I asked the question no one has an answer to: “Why?” I felt like I was just given a death sentence. All I kept thinking about were my two girls – who were 15 and 11 years old at the time. I couldn’t leave them! They’re too young and they needed me as much as I needed them.
It all started with some numbness in my right heel. How odd! I chalked it up to years of competition and thought that maybe I was experiencing sciatica nerve issues. Then the numbness crept upward into my “saddle” region. I was seeing a chiropractor at the time for some lingering back issues, so I mentioned the numbness to him. Thank goodness for his knowledge! He urged me to contact my family physician as he thought it might be a rare condition called “caude equina.” In retrospect, I wish it had been. To add to my fear, I suddenly lost all strength in my right leg. I visited my family doctor, and she ordered an EMG (nerve test) and an MRI. After the loss of strength in my leg, those tests were now expedited. It was my family doctor that delivered the results of those tests – I had a 6.8 cm mass in my sacrum. What the heck? A mass? In me? Get it out!! Now I was scared, well, maybe even terrified.
That’s when my dive into the medical world really began. I had an appointment for my first-ever CT scan which revealed a 2.3 cm lump in my left breast. I had breast cancer. I was scheduled for a biopsy and a mammogram. I was 49 years old at the time of diagnosis, and just weeks away from my 50th birthday. I wasn’t sure if I was going to see that day.
One of the hardest parts of being diagnosed was telling my girls. I decided I was not going to hide anything from them. They were terrified, I was terrified, and I still have a hard time writing about it this without tearing up.
I am now on my fourth line of treatment. I am a veteran of CT scans and bone scans. I have had setbacks and some serious progression. I have heard the words “chance of paralysis” more than once. But I decided that I was not going to let cancer get me down. I was not going to crawl under a rock and hide. Never! I’m not made that way. I have also had some really positive things happen to me since diagnosis: I have taken up a new sport and some new hobbies, I joined a dragon boat team made up of breast cancer survivors and thrivers, I’ve taken up photography and bird watching, and I’ve even started to learn to play the piano. I’m loving life!
Most importantly, I have shown my daughters that I am bigger than cancer. They see me going on with life and not letting cancer control me. I am teaching them about resilience in the face of fear.
My family and I have always been close and this diagnosis has brought us all even closer. I consider myself fortunate to have my amazing family. My siblings, my dad, my husband, and my daughters are with me for every appointment. We are all here for one another through good days and bad days. My oncologist has commented on my amazing support system. And while I have lost friends to this rotten disease, I have gained some new ones. My friends have become an extension of family for me; they are there with me too.
I know there will be a day when the medication stops working but I will face that day with the strength and will to live that got me through those first scary days. My family and I will face that day together.
I am Bobbi Jo. I am living with metastatic breast cancer. I love life. I am living well.