Survivor Stories: Angela Rose
It was a busy summer, and I'm embracing the change in seasons and delighting in fall. Portland was gripped by high heat and an endless blanket of wildfire haze all summer long that while inconvenient for us meant tragedy for those whose homes were in the path of destruction. Rain was needed, so now that it's here, I try to remind myself of what happened in its absence. School and activity schedules are back in full swing, with my daughter Gabrielle entering 5th grade, ready to enjoy a season of basketball. We are always striving to maintain balance in our lives, and the changing seasons and our busy fall schedules bring this point home.
The end of summer also marks the two year point of living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. Happy Metaversary to me! I’m in awe of the fact that I’m still putting one foot in front of the other and am not retreating to sadness and despair over this disease. That could have easily happened, believe me. There are so many women that have been lost to this disease in the past 24 months since I've entered the Stage IV ranks. Many of them were my age. Instead of drowning in loss, I’ve chosen to focus my energy and attention on thriving with cancer.
To this end, I am working constantly on finding balance. Everything in nature strives for balance not only to survive and procreate, but to thrive! The body has an amazing way of finding balance through the regulation of multiple bodily processes. I have realized that women like myself, who have experienced the repeated mental and physical trauma of multiple surgeries, radiation, and chemically toxic medications, face major challenges with balance. Fatigue and chronic pain are my regular rivals, mostly due to the physical toll of the daily medications I must take to combat the spread of cancer. The drugs I’m taking eliminate the body’s use of estrogen (my cancer's main fuel) and destroy various rapidly-dividing cells. It is often hard to accept that there are many days when I feel like a severely arthritic 90 year old, but then there are other days when I feel like I could conquer the world! I have heard this time and time again from women living with advanced cancer. The mind and body are continually trying to maintain a balance, and it’s a real challenge. My mind is very stubborn and is still deeply connected to the pre-cancer me. I push hard and often pay for it with a slow physical recovery. I keep telling myself, “it’s a delicate balance...keep trying to find it." Take a break. Rest. Repeat.
Spending time with my family in nature has also been very beneficial in my journey of healing. We often surround ourselves with the vast beauty of the Pacific Northwest through camping trips to the Oregon Coast as well as to the mountains of Central and Eastern Oregon. We take our mountain bikes on remote dirt trails, hike through lush green forests, and swim in the invigorating Pacific Ocean. My soul is most alive when I am in nature. These times of tranquility have brought me a deep sense of peace, a reprieve from the negativity of the world. Nature is my sanctuary. It is here that I recognize the impermanence of all things. Change is inevitable. We are delicately intertwined with the flow of nature.
Tomorrow will surely present new challenges. I may stumble and struggle to find balance. I might even fall at times. One thing is certain, though. I will hold steady and firm in my pursuit of balance. I will continually strive to strengthen my mind and body. I will continue to thrive with metastatic breast cancer.