Wednesday, August 3, 2011

We Have the Same Name - 8/3/11

We have the same name. We both wear prescription eye glasses. We are about the same height and complexion. When I was bald, she was losing her hair. Now that I have hair, she has none. I had a mastectomy. She had a double mastectomy. Cancer was only found in one breast, but she had the other breast removed as a precautionary measure. She has a family history of breast cancer. I do not. I'm only three years older than she is. She has two kids, ages 5 and 13. I have none.

Her oldest child understands that she is sick. He tells her often that he loves her, and she happily returns the sentiment. "He told me that his love for me is as big as the sun," she proudly said.

I laughed. "That's a lot of love," I told her.

"I told him," she continued, "that I loved him as much as I love God." She has a lot of faith. "I believe that it is all going to work out," she said. "I'm not giving up my faith. I pray every day." She made me a believer. I told her that prayer does help, and she nodded enthusiastically.

Her breast cancer was discovered when she was pregnant with her youngest child. She prays for another six years to see her oldest become an adult and her youngest become old enough to understand what is going on with his mother.

She has metastatic breast cancer to the bones, liver, and lung. So do I. We see the same oncologist in a cancer treatment center with several oncologists. We often are in the treatment room together, although we've never had the opportunity to sit next to one another and talk. Since we have the same name, a few months ago, one of the nurses joked about getting us mixed up. I threatened to sit next to my MBC sister and really confuse her. The nurse laughed and agreed that would really throw her off.

Our treatment protocols are different. I ran down my list of treatments since my second diagnosis in 2008. She, on the other hand, could only recall having Tamoxifen, one of the drugs I was also given initially. "I got 2.5 years out of that drug," she said. I barely got a year.

She had radiation to her hip. Her pain is better, but she has been having bowel troubles ever since then. Her stomach is visibly puffy. I also had radiation last year to my left hip. The pain is much better, and I am having no residual side effects. I'm beginning to see that even with the same disease, we are having much different experiences.

"I would feel so much better if we could get my bowel problems under control." I asked if there wasn't something they could prescribe to make it better. "Stool softeners," she said. They are treating the symptom, not the problem, and she is miserable. Although I had bowel problems from the chemotherapy for the primary breast cancer in 2003, I have had no bowel problems since I started treatments for my metastatic diagnosis. I feel sorry for her.

She is hooked up to an oxygen tank. I am so grateful to still be able to huff and puff our pollution-filled natural air. Sure, I complain when I can't get enough air into the lungs, and I get dizzy from lack of oxygen, but I can still breathe on my own. She can not. How in the world would I pull the oxygen tank over some of the hilly, rocky, and rooty trails that I run on? She can't run. I'm guessing that she can barely walk. I would die if I could not run/walk/shuffle along on the trails and roads. Again, my heart is breaking for her. How is she mentally handling all of this?

I am called back to the lab for vitals, blood work, and a urine sample. Both of us had scans this morning, so we'll see the oncologist for the results, and then proceed to the treatment room for chemotherapy.

My oncologist tells me that my scans from this morning look good. The liver and lung tumors are stable. My blood work and urine are good. My oncologist gives me another prescription for antibiotics because the nails are now oozing and smelly. Other than that, we will continue with my treatments. I am blessed to be in a state of stability. I realize that my situation could be a lot worse.

Unfortunately, the treatment room is overcrowded as usual. When my MBC sister comes into the treatment room later, she finds one open seat on the other side of the room. I have so many more questions for her. I guess I'll have to wait to talk with her again. I only get my 30 minutes of Avastin today, but she is there much longer than me. I leave with heavy thoughts about the sister with the same name as mine.

Make her feel better. Solve her bowel problems. Shrink her puffy stomach. Answer her prayers and give her another six years with her kids. While I'm asking, give her another 60 years. Let her see both kids become adults. Let her see the grand babies that will hopefully come sooner rather than later. Take away her cancer. Give her beautiful hair. Take away her oxygen tank and allow her to fill her lungs naturally. Let her walk effortlessly. And if she so desires, let her run on the trails and the roads, exploring the beautiful scenery around her. Let her live.


  1. Your beautiful hopes for your friend brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine dealing with the daily issues of MBC as you described them in a prior post, let alone while watching my 2 small children and wondering if I will watch them grow up. Truly, you are both survivors.

  2. Beautiful post. You are an amazing woman. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your friend.