I am one month shy of the four-year anniversary of the diagnosis of my stage four recurrence of breast cancer.

If you know me, you have likely cheered me on and chastised me during the last 47 months for squeezing more into each hour, each day, each week, and each month than thought humanly possible.

Living with metastatic breast cancer means living with a great sense of urgency.

I know life can change in the blink of an eye. I guess I have been trying not to blink.

Eleven days ago I had a scan that revealed some new activity with my cancer that required immediate attention. A cluster of lymph nodes was, in layman’s terms, squashing my right kidney and pressing on a muscle causing a sudden numbness and weakening of my right leg.

Surgery and a stent saved my kidney – crisis #1 averted!

Two days ago I had a biopsy of these nodes to give my Healing Team a more accurate picture of just what they are dealing with in terms of receptors, a roadmap, if you will, as they navigate the course over this rough terrain of cancer.

We have made the thoughtful and prayerful decision to “kick it up a notch” in terms of treatment.

Today, Good Friday, I will begin an aggressive chemotherapy regimen.

I must be honest with you, I have done all I could in the last four years to avoid this particular treatment. I had a difficult time with its “chemo-counterpart” eleven years ago and was not particularly relishing the idea of going back on this tougher protocol.

The good news is that although the protocol is tougher, so am I.

The better news is that the particular drug I am going on is a “new and improved” version of what I was on eleven years ago. Side effects are less harsh and my beloved oncologist thinks I’m going to do much, much better this time around with things that gave me difficulty last time, particularly the neuropathy.

I’ve got myself a leopard print cane and have decided to have some fun with wigs this time around – maybe even something in pink! (Google Helen Mirren and her pink hair – seriously, who wouldn’t want to look like that?!)

And so I sit in my quiet home, preparing myself for the day, all three of my kids still sound asleep, sipping my tea, praying, and watching the sunrise on this second day of the Triduum, Good Friday.

The irony of beginning this treatment on Good Friday is not lost on me. Truth be told, I find it deeply consoling; it is not just a reminder that His cross is my cross and my cross is His, it is the opportunity to live out my faith in the most real way possible, to pick up my cross and walk with Him – today and every day.

I have this really fabulous visual of being greeted at the Pearly Gates (many, many years from now, of course) by an oh-so-happy-to-see-me smiling Jesus, who comes charging at me with a running high-five, saying, “You were awesome!! You got that whole irony thing on Good Friday, didn’t you?! Wow!! You were really awesome!!

Oh, yeah, I get the irony, Lord, I totally get it…it sure was awesome!

Here’s the thing: I will do whatever I have to do to be able to continue to live this really incredible, magical, bright, shiny, beautiful life I have been privileged to enjoy for almost 51 years. And so I’ll do it.

When the day comes that I can’t, I won’t.

But that day is a long way off.

Until then, I pick up my cross and walk beside the Lord who has never left my side.

In two days it is Easter. The Resurrection. New life. And for this Catholic girl, it means 50 days of joyful celebration…and I have SO much to celebrate, don’t you?

Hope Lives!
Mary Ann