Story and Illustration by Jenny Lee Fowler
This isn’t our first rodeo. I’ve had breast cancer before. My husband and two children, now 13 and 17, weathered almost a year of surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy with me when I was first diagnosed almost four years ago. They cared for the caregiver, carried more chores around the house, shaved my head and grappled with the profound vulnerability of having a sick partner and parent.
Then we caught our breath and celebrated clear scans. Cancer was something that we got to look back over our shoulders at for a while. Some days it lurked in my fatigue or in the many follow-up appointments; other days were carefree.
Now it’s back. What’s different this time is that we’ll be living with cancer for the rest of my life. Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer is when the cancer cells have traveled to another place in the body. It’s treatable but not curable. The handful of therapies I take now are designed to try to wipe it out and halt it from progressing.
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