The Big FIVE

So many blogs ago, I think I mentioned that the 5-year stats for stage IV colorectal cancer survivorship aren't good: 10-12%. That means that 5 years from diagnosis, only 10-12% of those diagnosed stage IV will be alive. I know there are some other factors such as age, general health, and dying of other things that are considered. But after a few years in this business, it sure seems like that stat is pretty accurate.

It's weeks like this where I know it's got to be pretty damn close, as I've sat in front of my computer and watched 4 more young people die of this f*cking disease. Some I knew, and some I knew of through one simple degree of separation. But all were young and all were parents to little kids. All had to say goodbye to the babies they wanted so badly to live for. I can't even wrap my head around the thought or I'll start hyperventilating.

Some of these babies are just babies - the very space I was in 5 years ago tonight - curled up on the couch, nursing my baby to sleep as uncontrollable tears poured out of me. All I could think about was dying, and this little baby never knowing how much I obsessively loved him. I know these parents faced that very fear and disappointment to the bitter end.

I will think of them, and those that have gone before as I officially step in that 10-12% today.

And as much as I should be celebrating what 5 years of survivorship means for me, I can't help but have my head in the clouds thinking about the families that are having to plan funerals during a week that should be about thankfulness. I'm sure they just want to punch anyone who utters the word "thankful" in the face right about now.

I was volunteering at the boy's school yesterday when the kindergartners came marching down the hall in pilgrim hats on their way to a feast. Lachlan looked up and saw me with surprise. A huge grin came over his face, and I realized how important it was to him that I was there. My heart breaks thinking about those little faces that will be looking up in the coming weeks and months only to find that mom or dad isn't there - and what a immeasurable loss that is to their little lives. All because of a cancer that young people have no clue they can get.

A few weekends ago I was at a symposium for metastatic colorectal cancer patients put on by the Colon Cancer Alliance. It was a chance for me to professionally connect with other stage IV survivors, caregivers, and advocates, but also a chance for me to be around my people. And I couldn't help but walk away in awe of the many I met who have long passed the 5-year mark, and are living well past our statistically expected expiration date.

I have no doubt I will continue breaking those statistical expectations, too, and I will do it loudly and in the name and memory of those who never made it to this point. Here's to the next 5-years.

This girl right here was the first young CRC survivor I ever met, and gave me complete hope that I could surpass expectations when it came to LIVING with stage IV disease. She just passed the 8-year mark and currently has no evidence of disease (NED).
Long-term stage IV SURVIVORS! They got YEARS on me.
A whole lot to look up to in this photo. I plan to walk the same long road of survivorship and advocacy that these ladies have.
THRIVING as stage IV survivors.

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