I now know many women, dozens, probably more like hundreds, who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly not all are still with us.
The one thing I have learned is that everyone's cancer is different and presents differently. A case in point is a friend went to see another friend who was newly diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Two months after her diagnosis she cannot walk with out a cane because of the mets in her hips and her arm is huge with lymphedema. Two months! Her first symptom was hip pain.
I have a friend who was diagnosed with breast cancer at stage IV about four years ago and she was gone within 8 weeks of her diagnosis. Her first symptom with rib cage pain.
I have another friend who was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer 16 years ago. She is doing fine and hanging in there.
That is a huge difference. We can say that treatment has progressed rapidly in the past 15 years but the woman who was diagnosed so late is the most recent case.
While I digest the shock of the most recent diagnosis, this underlines what I always need to remember: everyone's cancer is different, everyone's cancer story is different. We all need to remember that.
This makes me think of the position that an oncologist faces with each new case. How is this cancer story going to unfold? What are the best options for this patient?
My question then is how do they figure out how to best treat each case? I know they have statistics and recommendations on different protocols but each story can be so different and the options are vast. We may complain about our doctor's some times but if we think about what they are trying to decipher and unravel, we should be amazed.
So as we listen to other's cancer stories, we need to remember that each cancer is different, the options are vast, and the outcomes will vary wildly.