The average life expectancy following a stage 4 diagnosis in New Zealand is 16 months . . . Going by US figures, median survival for my age group is 39.2 months, which statistically gives me until mid-2021.”
I did it.
I made it past median survival.
My first-line treatment – Tamoxifen – stopped working at the beginning of 2021, and my cancer kind of took off with a hiss and a roar in June. I’m on Palbociclib (Ibrance) and Fulvestrant now. These weren’t even options in NZ before May 2020, and I’m incredibly grateful to the women before me who fought to have them funded through Pharmac. My treatment team doesn’t have enough data yet to really judge if they are working, but there are other drugs if they’re not helping – or not helping enough. I try just to think about one week at a time. My job helps me focus on getting done what needs to get done.
I’m so lucky to have the job I do and I do not regret leaving academia for one second. I work with amazing people and the pandemic has expanded the scope of what I do enormously, in ways that give me the deep satisfaction of service.
I wish I’d looked beyond beating my head against a brick wall at universities for so many years. I got hyper-focused on what I thought I wanted, instead of looking at the daily misery I was actually going through. But this is a thing I cannot change and I will not waste time regretting it now.
I like my small town. At rush hour it’s 12 minutes from home to work: I timed it. It has an indie bookstore and wonderful cafes. Because I am not living in Auckland I am escaping the worst lockdowns, and there’s still a sense of a semi-normal life. I finally got my COVID vaccine shots in July 2021, which was right before our Delta outbreak in August.
In 2020 I released two books, and although I haven’t released one yet in 2021 I do hope to have one out in the next 6 months. The words still tick over slowly.
In 2019 I also wrote:
The five-year survival rate – i.e. till 2023 – is 36%, which isn’t negligible. There’s definitely a good chance I will make that.
I have a great chance. I’ll see you back here on 20 March 2023.