Again, thank you for your outpouring of love and support for Margaret.
It all helps more than you will ever know.
Below is a sweet note from Margaret, but first let me update you on her medical condition.
The PET scan did show continued cancerous activity in her left chest area and revealed that the cancer has spread into her sacrum and lower spine. Thus, she has been upgraded to “Stage 4 Breast Cancer.” Although this is not what you want to hear, frankly, we were spiritually and emotionally prepared for this news.
Although they are still hastily running tests on her, she is scheduled to start chemotherapy on Monday – assuming all goes well otherwise. At Stage 4, the goal is remission, which means her chemotherapy will be altered and – graciously – more tolerable. She still will have radiation, followed by long-term hormone therapy, which is effective against this type of cancer.
There is good news: her organs are clear, her blood work looks great, she is not experiencing horrible pain in her back and hips, her bone scan was otherwise negative, and her spirit remains positive. Most positively, because of a number of medical nuances that we do not fully understand, the doctor believes there is a reasonable chance to think that she will make it to that coveted 5-year survival mark.
If you Google on Stage 4 breast cancer for a prognosis, you will see some pretty bleak numbers, ranging from 15% to 22% for a 5-year survival rate. Margaret’s oncologist is much more optimistic that she will respond well to the course of treatment.
Yes, this is a very serious turn, but good doctors, modern medicine, strong faith, good humor, wonderful children, an outstanding husband (!), and your love and support will see her through this difficult time into the next phase of this wonderful life.
Here’s Margaret’s note:
I am not going to lie . . . cancer really does stink. This you already knew.
So I would like to share with you some things that maybe you don’t know yet.
Cancer also serves as a very strange catalyst for some of life’s richest blessings.
One of the first official “cancer patient” things I did was attend a breast cancer survivorship class centered around the concept of resiliency. The very well educated, experienced, and knowledgeable presenter chose to use the movie The Wizard of Oz (one of my all-time favorites) to help us look at our breast cancer journey in a different way. The part of the tornado is played by breast cancer, Dorothy is played by me. The yellow brick road is indeed (like a marathon) long, steep, curvy, scary, and beautiful. However, Dorothy is never alone! She begins with Toto (currently played by our beloved Deacon) and along the way she finds the scarecrow/brain (played by my amazing medical team) and the tin man/heart (played by all of you my friends new and old and friends of friends) and the lion/courage (played by all of us together to stare down the scary parts along the way). Spoiler alert! After the rather disappointing meeting with the not so great and powerful wizard of Oz Dorothy finds herself at home and sees her family and friends and home in a new way.
How does this relate to resiliency? Well . . . it turns out that there are a couple of things anyone can do which are statistically proven to help one be resilient. One is what I refer to as “3 Good Things.” This is a daily activity and I invite you to join me in this practice. It has already paid off for me in spades I am happy to report. All you have to do is at the end of EVERY day write down 3 good things that happened to you that day. It can be as small as getting the princess parking spot (which many of you know is always one of my favorite things) or as huge as winning the Lottery with the winning Powerball too or when the plastic surgeon tells you how great your skin/healing looks and you can tell that he really means it. However, the real secret to this practice lies in when you actually tell someone that they are one of your 3 good things that day. That is when the magic happens. Trust me on this one! (and please share your stories with me when this happens to you and this way the magic just keeps going!)
The second thing statistically proven to help with resiliency is to spend five minutes a day (yep only 5!) to practice mindfulness. This will look different for everyone. For some this is prayer, for others intentional breathing, for others visualization, and the list goes on. You can also do this in the grocery store line, sitting in traffic, waiting for an appointment, etc. And if you need to start out with only one minute and build up to five minutes that is okay too.
The third and last is the toughest and also not a daily task. Write a letter of thanks to someone in your life you are grateful to . . . seriously grateful. Next is the hard part – read it out loud to them face to face. IF they are too many miles away to make a “ring the doorbell and read and run” experience not feasible you may read it out loud to them over the phone. I have not finished this one yet so I cannot assure you of its magical resilient power but I am committed to giving it a try.
Here is to you all of my wonderful scarecrows, tin mans, lions, wizards, and Glendas!
Lastly for now – I want to tell you that I have never in my life experienced such overwhelming love or fully comprehended how loved I am by those nearest to me. It is an unbelievably wonderful gift for which I remain grateful beyond mere words. I cannot wait for you to join me when I get the news that this icky breast cancer is in remission when we have one gigantic party with champagne and dancing. Count on it . . . because I am.
With love and gratitude,
Margaret E. Bell