New Year’s Eve 2019

At 9:59 am on 12/31/2019, my oncologist, whom I have known for the last seven years, acknowledges the observations on my CT chest scan with an attending radiologist.

I imagine the phone conversation between these two people is full of silences as they both gaze at my interior landscape.

Soon after this conversation, my oncologist calls me on the phone. I am in the yard, back by the fence in the muddy grass.

When I pick up the phone, I listen to him—voice mannered and factual—tell me that what we have both thought is a slow to heal yoga injury is metastatic breast cancer. I imagine that as he tells me this, he removes his wireframe glasses and rubs his face; he looks down rather than out his window into the gray New Year’s Eve morning.

At the end of our conversation, I notice how unusually warm it is and how muddy my feet are. I take a deep breath and awkwardly thank him for calling.

Metastasis

In Greek, metastasis means “removal, migration, dislocation.” In medicine, metastasis means “transference of the seat” of the disease.

In 1843, Dr. DB Slack explored the connection between metastasis and sympathy, which means “the suffering or affection of two separate parts of the body at the same time.” His findings are published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal. One is titled “Sympathy-Metastasis” and the other “Metastasis-Sympathy.” 

For me, it means that some of my original breast cancer cells—which were not eradicated by chemotherapy and other treatments in 2012—traveled through my bloodstream, and after seven years, began to grow again.

And on their journey, those cells found their sympathetic home in my bones.

Overexpressed

Between 20%-30% of women who have been diagnosed with early breast cancer will later be diagnosed with a recurrence. 

And of that 20%-30 %, about 10%-20% are HER2 (human epidermal growth factor 2) positive breast cancers. 

Basically, in every healthy breast, there is a HER2 gene that makes HER2 proteins. These proteins act as receptors on the outside of breast cells and control how healthy cells grow, divide, and repair themselves.

In HER2-positive breast cancer, the gene mutates and makes too many copies of itself. As a result, the over-amplified HER2 genes tell the HER2 proteins to grow and divide uncontrollably. They are overexpressed.

Too many women know the space between hanging up the phone and turning to partners, children, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, other women who worry about recurrence, neighbors, and strangers to tell them that what they think is something else—in my case a slow to heal yoga injury—is metastatic breast cancer.  

Not curable, metastatic breast cancer is treated as a chronic disease. Many are living longer, healthier, happier lives, but many are not.

Called “wildly HER2 positive,” I created this blog–weekly posts that may include poems, articles, interviews, essays, reflections, heartbreaks, and joys–to be a vehicle for transforming suffering into healing, a place to share my story and others’ stories, too. 

New Year’s Eve 2021

Many years ago before my initial breast cancer diagnosis, I wrote a poem titled “New Year’s Eve.” At the end of the poem, I write:

For many the last day of the year
has the scent of lemons,
a divine prophecy:
you will be sent a boat
upon which you must sail. 

Today I set sail. Though I am not sure where this journey will lead me, how I will navigate turbulent waters, or what I will discover along the way, I invite you to come along for the adventure. Share your wisdom. Share your story. Write to me. Question me. Let me know what it means to you to be fully alive and living.

18 responses to “New Year’s Eve 2019

  1. I don’t really have the words to tell you how sorry I am. You are a fighter and i know you will continue to fight. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Holding you in the Light, friend. Such sad news so beautifully expressed. I have loved the New Year’s Eve poem since I first got your chapbook. So glad you are writing and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am here for any adventure you want to take or are given. You are my light and love and I am happy to sail these turbulent waters with you.

    Like

  4. I was in the parking lot of Total Wine when I got my call on a bright, sunny afternoon. I’d stopped to pick up some wine and a bottle of liquor for a birthday gift. I left with a cart full of wine, beer and whisky. That was almost ten years ago. Living life in a normal way can go from 90 to 0 in less than 30 seconds. Anyone who’s had cancer knows their lives and the lives of the people who love them, will be forever changed in various ways. Reading your lovely words made me cry, but makes me know you have the courage to fight like hell! I will hold you in my heart as you navigate your way through rough seas searching for the lighthouse beacon to safely guide you back home.

    Like

  5. Jenny can’t find the words to express my feelings for John, the girls, Mom etc. Was searching your words to know how to feel for me. Love the beautiful shawl have worn it. Even tho occasions are slim with this pandemic. Maybe there is much of not knowing and maybe always will be. Lots of love Aunt Dawn

    Like

  6. Oh my beautiful goddess friend, I am so sorry you are facing this. Life is unfair; we don’t get to choose our battles, only how we will fight them. And as usual you shine.
    Sending you love and I’m going to hold that warrior pose extra long and think of you.

    Like

  7. Jenny B, my dear friend, your light shines SO bright; what a gift you are! I savor your shimmering song ‘pink, pink, pink’ beautiful and joyous. Thank you for sharing your strength, wisdom, and words

    Like

  8. Holding you in the light with warm regard and respect. I know your journey not personally but like it was my second skin. I know my sister would have loved this expression of truth and courage and shared in it too. Love you, Jenny.

    Like

  9. You are one of the strongest people I know. Even though I’m not in touch, do know I think of you a ton. I treasure our friendship and our time together was pretty awesome. You did start the trend of taking your phone to bars! We have more miles between us now, but I know how to tend to your garden and can show up when you least expect it. I’m with you. 💕

    Like

  10. Thank you for sharing yourself — your story, your wisdom, your beautiful words — with us. We send love to all of you.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: