Once cancer cells start to multiply, they do so at an alarming rate. Some of them, if not arrested in time, spread to adjacent tissue, or even travel via the blood-stream or lymph vessels, to distant organs. There they set up camp and form a secondary tumour, or metastasis.
The incredible speed with which they reproduce is, however, part of their downfall. Radiation and chemotherapy both rely upon this accelerated growth for their effectiveness. Both these forms of treatment target rapidly growing cells. So, in effect, the fast proliferation of the cancer cells blows their cover!
“Just as well,” I said to Rob as I shared these facts with him. “Symptoms only start to show up when the tumour has grown large enough to cause problems. How important it is to check our health regularly.”
I hadn’t realised, until then, that there are different types of breast cancer, as well as different stages. In addition to being a T2N1
—Stage Two, with one malignant node
—mine was "Poorly Defined," which meant it was difficult to remove and extremely fast growing.
“According to statistics,” I read aloud to Rob, “One out of every eight women will have breast cancer at some point intheir lives. And here I thought I was one of the elite few!”
The statistics also said that three out of every four ‘stage two’ Breast Cancer patients will live to be grandparents. That fact is not widely publicised. Of course, I was already a grann, twice over, so that didn't help me. I decided at that point, to cultivate a scornful disregard for statistics. After all, there are no statistics for how long Shirleys live after contracting cancer! I am not a statistic. There is only one me.
I never asked a doctor how long I had to live. How could a mere doctor tell me that? In the Bible I read All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. God knew how long my life would be, before I was even born. I didn't think cancer would change His plans for me. In any case, I certainly didn’t want to live according to a man-made measure, watching as it got shorter each day. What would I do if I ran out of days?
* Some names have been changed to protect identity.