My name is Vanessa Greene. I’m 62 years old. I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2004. I’ve had multiple surgeries, chemotherapy hormone therapy, and many alternative non-allopathic therapies, my stage III cancer lasted 10 years and then I was diagnosed with Mets to the bone in 2014. For the first 10 years of my cancer I had no medical insurance. I’d had a very good career as a television writer and producer, since my 20s and so I’d saved quite a lot of money. During those 10 years without insurance I paid as I went, this made it difficult but also, I suspect, saved me because I couldn’t always afford all the tests and treatments they offered. Personally I think that there is a benefit to allowing the body to follow its own process. Ironically 10 years after I’d been initially diagnosed my oncologist told me that the fact that I had only done six cycles of chemo when I was initially diagnosed might mean and indeed did main that when I began chemo again that I stood a very good chance of it working. I’m currently taking Xeloda and Xgeva. That is an oral chemo and a monthly injection that helps my bone pain from the Mets. I continue to work and try very hard to manage my energy output. I find I can do much of what I used to do but only for a limited amount of time. For example I can run at 75% for four days of the week so long as I rest at home for the other three days.
I strongly believe that energy management, body awareness, and the instant availability of necessary medicines have been a large part of my survival. When I say the instant availability of necessary medicines I mean that as a cancer patient you must be your own strongest advocate. Getting a doctors appointment getting a prescription, getting advice quickly is very very difficult in the current medical system. It is not patient friendly. I’m immensely grateful for Obama care because I was un-insurable with a pre-existing condition but unfortunately it’s still rather unorganized and getting something as simple as a regular doctor’s appointment can take weeks. The hospitals, the doctors, insurance, company all prefer I use urgent care facilities. This is a cancer patients nightmare. You don’t know the doctor, he doesn’t know you. He probably doesn’t have a lot of experience with cancer patients, he doesn’t understand the medicines, he often doesn’t understand the correlation between various infections and other problems the cancer patients struggle with. These are the things that kill us. So what I do is I keep a supply of strong antibiotics in my fridge. My personal weakness lies in my urinary tract because of all the hormone medicine I’ve taken. I have an estrogen driven cancer and I am in my 60s, UTIs can be a difficult and common occurrence for me. When I have a hard time getting medicine because doctors don’t call me back etc. a 12 hour delay can be the difference of a week without chemotherapy or a month without chemotherapy. So I keep my own supply and if I feel an infection beginning I instantly start an antibiotic. My doctors don’t like this, they don’t like me treating myself, but unless I have $1 million and can get the very best “doctors money can buy” the system as it stands now will kill me.
Regardless of all this, currently I’m feeling okay, still working, and in fact planning a project for the summer. When I weigh up the balance of physical risk and emotional well-being I realize that this is strictly a cost-benefit scenario. The big questions are regarding the weight of one’s emotional state against the weight of one’s physical state, it makes me happy to be working on something other than researching my damn cancer. (I’m good at that and will continue to research) but I need and feel it is most important to have other interests, other things to look forward to and in this way even though there is physical risk in my being in the world and working the emotional benefit in my opinion outweighs the risk. I don’t plan too far ahead I tend to go season to season and I’ve done that for the last two years. It’s springtime right now and in truth I am thinking about the summer but certainly not beyond that. Keeping things small, keeping things simple, keeping things as stress-free as possible are at the core of my personal philosophy. I’m happy to help in anyway I can I wish you all the best regards
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