The Gold Cancer Card

At my support group we laugh about when and how we use our “cancer cards.” When I was bald from chemo and obviously a cancer patient, people were super nice to me. They’ll give up their seats, let you cut in line, etc. When we need to say no to something, we play the cancer card. Jokingly, with my friends I will say “how can you not let me pick the movie? I have caaaaaaaancer.”

Well, cancer spreading to your brain is the goddam gold card. It’s a whole other level of “I have cancer.” Everyone else’s responses to my latest cranium invader have shaken me out of the lull I was in. I had gotten used to having metastatic cancer. I knew people who had lived a lot of years. I was still living on my own, had a good quality of life. Living with cancer had become so normal that I had sort of pushed the “terminal” part of it to the back of my thoughts. But now, when I see the fear on people’s faces or hear it in their voices, I can’t ignore the seriousness of this and what it all means.

Just a little clump of cells in my brain has caused tremendous anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness. My oncologist was actually pretty nonchalant about it– “oh, I have patients with brain mets that live for years.” I hope I get to be one of those. . . maybe. The side effects of tumors and radiation in your brain are not pretty. How much of that will I have to go through? I don’t know. I can’t control what is going to happen next. I can make choices about treatments, but that’s about it. I can take some comfort in knowing that I have generous and loving parents that will take care of me no matter what happens next. It’s a burden I wish they did not have to bear, but I can’t control that either.

So, the video. Tom Petty is probably my favorite singer of all time. Still on my bucket list to go see him someday. Since I’ve listened to him all of these years, certain songs resonating at certain periods, I kind of feel like his music is a soundtrack to my life. This song, Wildflowers, is one I listen to most days right now. When I am in the PET scanner or MRI machine and feeling nervous, I repeat the lyrics in my head. When I have a moment of panic or anxiety, I focus on these words and picture some of the best times in my life– hiking with Jackson, Emma and Sassy. Sometimes I can even smell the pine and dirt.

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
Sail away, kill off the hours
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, find you a lover
Go away somewhere bright and new
I have seen no other
Who compares with you

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with your love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free

Run away, go find a lover
Run away, let your heart be your guide
You deserve the deepest of cover
You belong in that home by and by

You belong among the wildflowers
You belong somewhere close to me
Far away from your trouble and worry
You belong somewhere you feel free
You belong somewhere you feel free

7 thoughts on “The Gold Cancer Card”

  1. Most definitely my favoriteTom Petty song for the depth of its lyrics and the beautiful melody. Be Free, Live Free and Stay Free….this is your birth right!

  2. K, I’ve had gamma knife 5 times and cyber once, my last scan was clean, i go in next week for my next. You can do this. don’t let them give you whole-brain, there are better options.

  3. Sorry that we can’t control what is happening to you. I can reassure you that you will not be going through it alone. Every moment with you is precious and never a burden. Love, Mom

  4. Karen, Thinking about you and yours. I hate that there are such rough patches to get through. Keep on fighting. Your spirit has always amazed and inspired me.
    love K. Misner

  5. This is a beautiful post. Reading those lyrics made me cry. This life is so hard for all of us, sister. We each carry pain, we each experience heart-breaking beauty. Tomorrow I am going to put my best foot forward and hold this world close in your honor.

  6. Hi Karen,
    I don’t have brain mets I can’t offer any insights there. I did want to pass along as a resource.
    You are right–brain mets are definitely the Full House of the cancer poker game…

    In terms of the cancer card, another metastatic friend and I were recently flying from Chicago to New York. We kept making “cancer card” jokes to each other the whole time. [“Flight attendant, may I have TWO snacks? …..I have cancer, you know…”
    I also suggested we try to board early with the Uniformed Service Personnel [“But I AM in uniform, I am a soldier in Dr. Love’s Army…’]
    We didn’t actually do any of these things but it did pass the time imagining what we might try next…. Hang in there, I hope all will go well with you.

    Was just sharing the following with another MBC’er and thought you might find it of interest.
    Take care!

    “How Do You Live With MBC” is a question addressed in this video. Hopefully it also shows that we are not alone, too:

    Rock on,


    (As you might know, I volunteer with MBCN, wanted to make sure you knew about the forthcoming conference)
    Registration Reminder Video:

    Here is a link to the agenda with specific topics and speakers:

    Here are the details in a nutshell:

    The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network’s (MBCN’s) 2013 Annual Conference In Conjunction with MD Anderson.

    WHO: People living with metastatic breast cancer and their spouses, partners, friends and caregivers.

    WHEN: September 20-22, 2013.

    WHERE: Houston Marriott @ Texas Medical Center.


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