Next Steps

So, my life expectancy has been drastically reduced.  For better or worse, it is not in my nature to live in the moment.  I’m a planner, always have been.  I plan out the meals I’m going to prepare for the following week; I’ve been trying to plan out my now-obsolete retirement; I’ve been planning out how much longer I’ll drive my minivan.  I plan everything.  Now I’m planning for what?  A few years, a few decades?  Should I stop saving for retirement?  Should I take up tanning and smoking; both of which I think I’d really enjoy?  What exactly should I tell the kids?  It’s driving me bananas.  Honestly if I didn’t have a family I’d probably just give up and spend the rest of my life on a beach in Mexico.  But here I am, trying to plan out how to maximize my time and quality of life for the rest of my possibly short time on Earth.

Now that I’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, I’m reminded of examples of people that have greatly exceeded their life expectancy.  Stephen Hawking is one example.  Valerie Harper and Jimmy Carter have lived years with brain tumors.  Sometimes I use the analogy of being diagnosed with HIV in the 1990s.  At the time that was a death sentence, but now those people are still living.  Even though there is still no cure, those people will likely live a full life and die of something other than AIDS.

Despite the diagnosis, I realize there is much to be thankful for.  I didn’t die suddenly in a car accident.  I have time to enjoy life and think through any end-of-life decisions.  I am also really glad that I’m the one who was diagnosed with cancer, not my children.  I can’t imagine anything more difficult than having a child with cancer or a chronic illness.  Just in terms of my cancer, I think I have a relatively good prognosis for being Stage 4.  For one thing, it is just in one localized area of my skeleton; so really intense, localized therapy is possible.  Also, cancer that has spread to the bones doesn’t travel to other sites as easily as cancer that has spread elsewhere.  It is less aggressive than if it had returned in other usual spots of metastases, the lungs, liver, and brain.

But, to be honest, I’m just not sure what the future holds.  A few years ago, I witnessed a friend with breast cancer pass away within two years of diagnosis.  As much as I’d like to be positive, I also want to be realistic and be prepared for more negative outcomes.  Ultimately, the only things I can do are hope for the best and do my best to remain healthy and positive.

Author: katiewardstage4

I am a 42 year old pharmacist and mother of two currently living in Madison, WI. In my spare time I enjoy running and baking. Starting this blog has enabled me to record some of my feelings about being diagnosed with breast cancer and has also given me the realization that writing for a living would be much more difficult than I would have guessed.

4 thoughts on “Next Steps”

  1. Katie, most people didn’t know this, but I wasn’t supposed to live through the back surgery I had when we were 15. I don’t know if you remember this but I was in a 4 month coma and spent my entire sophomore year in the Hospital at Mayo Clinic. Life expectancy was that I wouldn’t live long enough to go to college. I turn 39 next month. Diagnosis aren’t always a death sentence. When I was on the ventilator they gave me the choice to end my suffering. But I chose to fight because there’s so much I wanted to see and do. Science is improving daily. Use the time like everyday is your last. Go on trips with the kids, and do the things you always wanted to do. Hugs!


    1. Randy, I am so inspired by your story. That is the kind of stuff I love to hear and it makes me feel so much better. I always knew you to be a positive person in school, but I’m so glad we’ve reconnected. Your words are inspiring and make a difference!


  2. So good to hear how optimistic you are! You are right as for positive thinking, I always tried to stay positive and thinking that I would conquer my cancer. As with you there is no cure for leukemia, but I’ve been lucky to have come through, over 20 years now. So I know there’s always possibilities out there and I hope they find them for you. Again praying for you hoping for the best. Be strong!!


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