What Breast Cancer Survival Looks Like: Caryn Rosenberg 2 Years Later

by Caryn Rosenberg
"I want to live my life so that I leave a legacy that lives beyond me." -Caryn, with husband Steve.

“I was getting fertility treatments, so I figured I should get a mammogram before I became pregnant. They found a tumor in my right breast. Instead of going through a pregnancy, I went through cancer treatment. After chemo and radiation, I might have gotten pregnant with in vitro, but I tested positive for [the genetic mutation] BRCA1 so I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. My husband and I looked into international adoption, but many countries won’t consider you if you’ve had cancer. By that point, I didn’t think it was fair to have a child, because of my risk of recurrence. That was a tough decision. I had to put my dream of becoming a mother away for another life. Just this summer, I found out my cancer has recurred in my lymph nodes and lungs. Thank god I didn’t bring a child into this world—or even adopt one—given that I’d be going through all of this. Whatever child’s soul that was supposed to be with me is, I hope, with another set of parents who are giving him or her that love.”
2009 UPDATE: I’ve been through a lot since 2007.  Right after publication of my comments, I was diagnosed with a recurrence of the triple negative breast cancer that had spread into my lungs.  For the first time, I had to go through chemo that would take my hair.  With that and radiation (and alternative treatments), I was in remission for about 10 months.  I continued my volunteering, enjoying life, and caring for my disabled mother.  I was even enjoying my new spikey haircut!
Then, one morning, I couldn’t move the left side of my face.  Panicked, I called 911 and was taken to the hospital.  I had brain metatstasis.  I won’t go into detail, but for the next four months I was subjected to direct infused chemotherapy to my central nervous sytem, whole brain and full spinal radiation, steroids and left weaker than I had ever been in my life. Almost a year later, I’m still not back to my ‘normal’ yet, not even my ‘new normal,’ but I’ll get there.
My doctor and I have partnered in working to make the cancer ‘chronic’ because we believe that if we can make it chronic, we can cure it.
Going from stage 2 to stage 4, I learned a lot. I live life less focused on the future, taking it more one day at a time for the day to day stuff.  One foot in front of the other, as my father, a holocaust survivor taught me.  But in the long term, I want to live my life so that I leave a legacy that lives beyond me.  I want to make a positive difference and help heal the world. And it’s so strange not knowing whether I’ll live months or years, or decades.  It’s like I straddle two worlds – one that is the normal like everyone else and one that requires an urgency to get everything that I want to do in my life before it’s over. There is a difference in how even the breast cancer community interacts with those who have advanced breast cancer.  They call it terminal and incurable and sort of write us off.  I think many of them are scared.  What we want the world to know is that we are still the feisty women we’ve always been and we are LIVING with breast cancer.  Breast Cancer is not glamorous or pretty or PINK, and not everyone has just a ‘speedbump’ in life. For some of us, it becomes our lives. How do we LIVE with cancer until they find a cure? LET’S FIND A CURE ALREADY!
Caryn Rosenberg
Age 49!!

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