About a month ago, Dorothy Nelson fell down three times during the course of two days, so she says her treatment must be working.
“I really bruised myself up, but I didn’t break anything,” Nelson said with a confident smile.
Nelson has been living with metastatic breast cancer, which is where, after having a mastectomy, her breast cancer metastasized to the bone. The cancer has spread from her skull to her spine.
With that kind of cancer, Nelson’s bones have become brittle and fragile much like the symptoms of osteoporosis, to which her doctor warned her early on that with her condition, bones could fracture or break without impact.
“I really feel good. I am pain free most of the time. I have a pain patch that I wear and I have oxycodone if I need it, which I very seldom do. I get tired, but I am 86 years old.”
This is leaps and bounds from where Nelson was both physically and mentally earlier on in her life, dealing with the pain that came from the cancer.
She would worry constantly about her bones breaking, and would rarely travel away from home and out of her comfort zone.
She sold her insurance policy so her husband could have it and had an attitude of “well, this is it.”
“If the pain had kept on like it was, I had considered suicide because it was so bad. I never had pain like that.”
Looking back on it, she is grateful she pushed through the pain.
“It was hard on my husband. He thought he was going to lose me. And he still might. The cancer could all of sudden decide to blow, and it will blow. But I don’t think it’s going to. And if it does, I am prepared for it. I figure, anything over 85 years old, to me, is a gift, because I didn’t expect to live this long.”
As she has come to the understanding that a diagnosis does not mean her life is over, she is able to manage her pain. She can plan to do things, which painful flare-ups didn’t allow, and dive into into past hobbies.
“I haven’t painted since I got sick, but I am getting ready. I have some ideas and I am getting ready for that.”
She takes regular trips to the local casinos in town with some of her girl friends. They gamble a little, eat a little, and sometimes stay the night and have pajama parties.
She recalled a recent conversation she had with one of her good friends who took her out to dinner for her birthday.
“I think we laugh more now than we did 20 years ago,” she said. “It seems like we don’t have as many worries or anything. We know where we are, where we have been, and we are satisfied, I guess.”
Nelson has a way of keeping a light and optimistic point of view on life now days. Awhile back, she woke up with intense chest pains and instantly thought she was having a heart attack. She simply took some aspirin and waited it out, despite her husband urging to call 9-1-1.
“I said, ‘No. If it’s a heart attack, that’s better than dying from cancer,’” she said, laughing.
She then gathered herself.
“I guess it’s weird, but that’s the way I feel. I think because it was so close the last time, I’m not afraid of it anymore.”