Some of the results from the whole body scan are in. My lungs and liver are still cancer free! There is progression in the bone mets, but with the exception of one ambiguous finding the disease has not spread outside the skeleton. I am jazzed! I hadn’t realized how oppressive the stress and tension were until I got the news. I felt like I could breathe for the first time in a month.
I was posting my good news on a discussion board for people living with Stage IV breast cancer(1) and suddenly realized how odd it is to be happy that the cancer has “only” spread in my bones. Everything is relative, isn’t it? But there it is. Mets in the liver and lungs feel much more serious than mets in my bones. Yet when it first spread to my bones I was devastated. A large part of that is certainly the old saying “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”.
So, all in all, I am pleased and relieved. The situation hasn’t changed; my attitude has. How often I have to learn that lesson! It all goes back to those lines from Invictus:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
As I wrote at the beginning of this year, I have a quirky interpretation of those lines.
I am living in circumstances I cannot change or control, but one power will never be taken from me: the power to choose how I deal with it. And the way I deal with circumstances of necessity changes the way they affect me. It is a dynamic relationship: by changing myself I have changed reality.
I didn’t take charge of the situation while I was stressed out, but I did recognize the change as soon as it happened, which is good. When I am working on changing myself (in this case, my tendency to catastrophize), I take a page from Skinner’s book and reward myself for successive approximations to the goal(2). Instead of getting down on myself for (yet again) allowing myself to be swept away by circumstance, I congratulate myself for recognizing my role in my own feelings as quickly as I did. I think I’ll make something special for my main meal to celebrate – and maybe even have coconut sorbet for dessert, even though it’s not Sunday!
Bottom line is that my disease has progressed, but not as badly as feared, and I still don’t know what the treatment will be or if I’ll have to have any biopsies. On the other hand, I’ve made strides in taking control of my inner world – and that is far more important.
(1) An excellent site for people with breast cancer and those who are close to them, http://www.breastcancer.org/ offers great information as well as discussion boards for pretty much everyone touched by the disease.
(2) Wikipedia article on behavior “shaping” gives an idea of what I’m talking about. Click.