There is no doubt metastatic breast cancer has become a primary feature of my life, but as I have repeated many times does not define me. There is, however, puzzlement about the disease's primary statistic, that one in eight women (and I turned out to be "that one") will experience breast cancer in her lifetime. She may survive it, but this disease takes up a lot of dialogue and for women around the world has a crucial say in how they experience life after this sad turn of events.

In 2013, I was diagnosed with a specific kind of breast cancer (HR+ HER2 negative), slow growing and seemingly less intense than some other common ones. Initially I was relieved, even hopeful that removing the affected breast would be successful enough treatment followed by a medication solid in its reputation to keep cancer at bay. Roughly three years beyond the mastectomy, I found another tumor just above the main incision. This too was removed, and I was transferred to another long-term medication, Tamoxifen. Then, another three years, only this time breast cancer had metastasized to most of my spine. In spring 2022, I underwent many sessions of radiation, and chemotherapy was begun with the oral medication, Ibrance (along with shots to reduce/eliminate estrogen and re-build bone).

Life-threatening metastatic cancer wasn't without provocation, but as a result of unwillingness to continue taking Tamoxifen (or any other cancer-fighting medication) for several months before terminal diagnosis. Fatigue felt from Tamoxifen was oppressive, and so I stopped the drug intentionally, letting my surgeon know I was doing so. She didn't agree or disagree, but said I might stay prepared for an uptick in cancer in the future. All I knew was that I had been living with this monster for a decade, making concessions for it, telling myself it was worth the worry. As I found out, that wasn't the way it played out-at all.

For the next several months I hiked with a friend (2017 to 2022) sometimes as many as seven to ten miles at a stretch. It was a life-changing event, finally seeing parts of Washington State, some places very close to home, for the first time on foot. I was also working hard on our 5-acre, well-loved home and surrounding area. Back pain was common, by 2020 Covid was raging, I didn't pursue a doctor, and so events basically proceeded in this order.

Early 2022: Began radiation and started Ibrance oral chemotherapy after diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in March. Continued this therapy until May.

May 2022: Radiation completed, chemo was becoming more uncomfortable with extreme nausea and little progression through symptoms. Constantly running to appointments, which became the harsh reality of daily life. Two E.R. visits finally confirmed I was unable to fully void and was placed on a foley catheter for six months.

End-stage hospice was called in to help me through "the last few months of my life." I took some time off from cancer therapy of any kind.

July 4, 2022: Began daily regimen of Panacur (dog dewormer) or Fenbendazole (human equivalent) as first choice of alternative therapy, also some vitamins, supplements, and use of the topical essential oil, Frankincense mixed with coconut oil. Of course, I had no idea what Panacur might be doing internally (and still don't). Symptoms like nausea, fatigue, and lack of appetite subsided and haven't returned. I started with a daily dose of ½ teaspoon (powder) and am now on a 3-day off, 4-day on plan. I don't look at Panacur as a cancer cure, but I do look at it in the line-up of possibilities extending my life. I've outlived my original diagnosis by more than a year with good quality of life. October, for me, is a month to celebrate.

Mid-2023: There are break-out issues secondary to cancer, things like leg edema which has been difficult to reduce or eliminate. Daily pain remains a feature in my lower back and often in a hip or ribcage. There is no denying this could be damage caused by cancer. However, I'm treating with a new pain medication with good results. Key to relief is good sleep and a writing project. I have found creativity takes my mind off the battle, giving me breaks and some achievements along the way. I'm a strong believer that I can't be afraid of cancer and that it's the little things like a daily walk that keep me enthusiastic about living. It's important to stay positive. And truthful.

There are those who will always question alternative therapy. I understand because I have too. But the road most traveled through chemotherapy can be treacherous, invasive and energy-zapping. In taking the freedom of hospice by my side, I have been able to make my own life decisions while remaining as comfortable as I can. It is the tradeoff I can live with. Like flying, I'm learning as I go. "I've done this before," I say to myself. "Risk is nothing new."

In honor of my sweet little Golden Retriever, Charlie, who is almost 14 years old with troubles of her own. She stands by me, good days and bad. She is integral to my peace of mind and is part of my life support. I will love her always for her companionship and devotion, especially in my journey with cancer.

My special thanks to Heidi and Hannah, Hospice nurses. There is something reassuring about these folks, nurses mostly, who give me good advice, increase my positivity, and never abandon their efforts to keep their vast array of patients comfortable and secure. Hospice has been instrumental in my longevity and my quality of life. I can never thank them enough.