Until Further Notice …

With Margaret’s last post revealing that she has achieved her primary goal of “no evidence of active disease,” we have agreed that it is time to suspend regular medical updates on her cancer journey at this time.

We will post again when there is a significant change – positive or negative.

Last Saturday was the first anniversary of her official diagnosis of Stage IV Breast Cancer, and this past year has been Hell – with the single distraction of Megan’s lovely wedding to a very fine young man! We cannot continue to live from day to day on an emotional roller-coaster, anxiously awaiting test results and doctor visits … so we are doing our best of adjust to “a new normal” in the face of a chronic, often fatal disease.

It has not been easy or comfortable for us to chronicle this journey publicly, but we do also know how deeply many care and deserve to know what has transpired. We do sincerely and humbly thank you for your well-wishes, caring, “likes” on Facebook, comments, meals, visits, phone calls and other expressions of kindness. We thank God for all of you – and hope you will be with us throughout the continued journey.

As Margaret wrote in her last post, the disease is never going away. There is no cure for her cancer, but hopefully she has many happy years left on this planet. She is greatly diminished and weakened by treatment, and she is now focused on getting stronger, healthier and heavier!

FYI This blog (jhbelljr.net), which was my professional blog until Margaret’s illness, will be used in the future to post mostly family-oriented matters of interest. I have started a new blog for professional purposes, and I hope you will subscribe to that! It’s located at johnhenrybell.com. I hope it will be of interest! Add me! 😉

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NE(A)D

This is from Margaret:

Dearest Family and Friends,

A year ago tomorrow (October 24), I was officially diagnosed with the most aggressive form of Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. At the time of my diagnosis, it had spread throughout my lymph system and onto some bones, in particular, my spine and sacrum. Only 6% of women are initially diagnosed at Stage IV.

There is no cure for Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

At Stage IV the cancer is managed or treated as a chronic disease. The goal for the past year has been to achieve “no evidence of active disease.” It is with an incredibly grateful heart that last week – after a year of brutal treatment – my oncologist declared that we have achieved our primary goal!

Like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, I am now awake and at home and everything is in color. Your prayers, friendship, notes of encouragement, care, concern, overwhelming love and support have sustained us. My “Yellow Brick Road” has been – and will continue to be – full of challenges and celebrations.

Friends, I am ALIVE, and we are celebrating!

Every journey also offers us opportunity to learn (about ourselves and others and people and places), to gain new perspective, and to experience home in a new way – perhaps with a new vision. I have more questions than answers. This is where I am now.

We know that, unlike most breast cancer survivors, my active, daily treatment will continue for the rest of my life. The chemo port in my arm which transports chemicals to my heart will never come out. I take daily medications, I receive an chemical infusion once a month, and I receive a nasty shot every three months to keep the disease under control for as long as possible. My doctor talks about what we will do next when (not “if”) this treatment starts to fail. I will anxiously get a PET scan every three months to determine if the cancer is advancing. I finally decided that I am unable to work full time and quit my job.

However, I am hopeful that I have many years left on this planet, but we know that is in God’s hands. Fortunately, my oncologist shares my optimism for being able to treat this nasty disease for years (hopefully many!).

People are not statistics. Everyone’s cancer experience, their diagnosis and prognosis, is unique. With that said, we always seem to want to know, “What about me?” I was told I have a little better than a five year survival rate. However, my oncologist shared that one of his patients with a similar diagnosis lived for 22 years — and died from a heart attack. Those stories are powerful medicine! Only God knows!

A good friend asked me recently how I was, and it shocked me to find myself in tears as I said, “I am doing well – really I am.” Like Dorothy I have survived a wicked tornado, and I have a stronger appreciation, understanding, and love for those dearest to me.

My life looks different yet my faith, my beloved husband, my family, and my friends near and far are more real and precious to me now than ever before.

My jelly bean and bucket list are in full focus.

Our hearts are full of abundant gratitude for successfully reaching this milestone and it is with fierce determination and renewed hope for joy filled and meaningful living in the years ahead which inspires us to dream new dreams for our future.

Thank YOU!

Love, Margaret