I’m 49, married 12 years to a wonderful man, Kent, and we have a 5-year-old daughter, Lucy. I have Stage IV, Metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer, for which there is no cure. I’m currently in a clinical trial. Treatments are tolerable, but more importantly, they are working. It has extended my time with Kent, Lucy, and my loved ones for years to come.
My medical situation, while serious, has its upsides. The biggest one: it has forced me to slow down and appreciate the deliciousness that is Lucy, and the beautiful way she looks at me and the rest of the world. Lucy knows I have cancer, but she knows it’s not contagious, like a cold or a tummy bug.
My cancer journey started with an initial diagnosis of Stage 2b in 2014. After chemo, radiation, and several major surgeries, I was told I was cancer free in 2015. I enjoyed this status, even ran a 5K, believing I needed to be healthier for a long life, with cancer behind me.
In 2017, my world was rocked again. The cancer had metastasized, and a breast cancer tumor was located in my liver.
The initial weeks of diagnosis, we made many practical decisions regarding treatments, contingency plans, and targeted milestones. In my heart, I was worried that I wouldn’t get to see Lucy start kindergarten.
Surrounded by the best medical teams, Kent and I were well informed about our options, and we choose to enroll in a clinical trial that was available in Boston. This treatment would not make me lose my hair, though there would be different side effects.
Lucy remembers when I lost all my hair with chemo in 2014. She was 2 years old at the time and had very little hair too. We actually had a hair-growing contest — which she won.
Every three weeks from March until August 2017, Kent and I traveled to Boston for the trial treatment. I know Lucy missed us, but so many of our family members and friends came to stay with her in Jacksonville, it was like she had a revolving sleepover party. Whenever we came home, we had a special surprise for Lucy, and we enjoyed our special time together after each trip.
Eventually, the clinical trial opened in Jacksonville. A serious game changer — no more trips to Boston! Now, after each of my treatments in Jacksonville, we still enjoy our “surprise time” together. Mainly though, we love just hanging out and talking with each other.
When I have the energy, we like to go to Nordstrom and shop for shoes. We go so often that the shoe department employees all know us. We are shoe celebrities. It’s a dose of fun in my life to have Lucy by my side.
Kent is now retired from his career and is a stay-at-home dad. This decision is best for Lucy and our family. I maintain a busy career, although I’m tired and often nauseous. Regardless of my sickness, I am a strong and knowledgeable leader and am an essential part of our team.
But my weekends are all about my Lucy. It drives me to fight my fatigue by knowing I can teach her how to read or play a game. Sometimes, I give in to my body, and we cuddle up together so I can rest. If I’m too wiped out, Kent dives in and takes over — I could not do this without him, he is the best!
Throughout this, Lucy is learning about the kindness of strangers, in so many various ways, she notices. She is learning how to treat others with empathy and compassion. She even gets some perks — when Kent’s hockey team wore pink jerseys and donated their game to me, Lucy got to go on the ice and take a picture.
I am BRCA1+, which means that Lucy has a 50/50 chance of having the gene. As of now, doctors do not allow testing until you are of age and can make your own decision. My doctors assure me that when Lucy is 18, she will not have to worry about cancer as they will find a cure. I still worry.
How do I push through? People say to me, “You’re so strong.” And I am, most of the time. I can’t afford to wallow in self-pity or anxiety. That’s not what moms do, right? We pick ourselves up in the face of adversity and soldier on because we have children to love and raise. I am lucky to have a loving husband, supportive family, friends, peers, and a great boss and friend. I want to be here! I want 40+ more years.
Now, more than ever, I practice the philosophy of being kind and thoughtful when I can, especially when no one is watching, because it feels right. And feeling right feels good. It feels much better than worrying about cancer.
Learn more about Jacksonville’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event held on October 13, 2018 — including how to donate, sponsor or register a team of walkers — at makingstrideswalk.org/jacksonvillefl.
About the Author
Stacy Hanson is a loving mom, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, cousin and friend. She is also the Chief Client Officer at CoventBridge Group. As part of a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic, she is on immunotherapy and a Parp Inhibitor. The treatment is working, and her tumor has reduced by 90%. Her prognosis is good, and she believes she has years to be there with her family. Stacy is giving back to Jacksonville and the breast cancer community by serving as the Event Chair for the 2018 Making Strides Against Breast Cancer of Jacksonville event, held on Saturday, October 13, 2018, and presented by Florida Blue. Funds raised by the American Cancer Society ensure that no one faces breast cancer alone by funding innovative breast cancer research, promoting education and risk reduction and providing comprehensive patient support. Stacy’s mission is to raise over $500,000 for this year’s event.