I am still alive despite metastases

"I'm still alive – despite metastases "Claudia Altmann-Pospischek has metastatic breast cancer. In the interview she tells about her life with the incurable disease.

In Germany, this would be a reduced earning capacity pension. How did you feel when it was determined that you could no longer work full time?

Having to rely on a pension in my early 40s and being considered unable to work is stressful – especially because I always enjoyed working. In addition, the disease is not visible to me. Even if there is understanding in principle: having to explain oneself over and over again is exhausting. When I had my second chemotherapy, the pain slowly subsided and I finally felt better, I started my blog “Claudia's Cancer Challenge” on Facebook. Writing helped me cope with the disease: I had a “virtual window” to the outside world, and there was finally something to do again to. An important and right step – and now I have even made it back into professional life.

To the person:

I am still alive despite metastases

Claudia Altmann-Pospischek, 42, is a native of Wiener Neustadt, married, and has advanced breast cancer with liver and bone metastases (incurable).

A year and a half ago, she launched her Facebook blog “Claudia's Cancer Challenge,” which has since grown to nearly 3.900 followers counts. Writing and exchanging experiences with other sufferers help her to come to terms with the disease. She sees herself as a “breast cancer activist,” wanting to share her experiences and give encouragement and hope to others with a similar diagnosis.

In 2016, Altmann-Pospischek was awarded the myAID award for Lower Austria at the Dancer against Cancer charity ball for her Facebook presence. One year later followed the “Lionheart” award in the category “Sustainability”, with which the association Pro Niederosterreich annually honors social commitment.

Are you getting the job done right??

Of course, there are always days when I feel worse and have problems getting out of bed. But my bosses are extremely understanding. They told me from the beginning: “Do what you can and where you can.” As far as my working hours are concerned, I am therefore flexible. I am aware that I am very lucky in this respect – also because with Peter I have a man at my side who earns a normal wage. If I were alone and only had a pension, I would have a hard time making ends meet.

Does a disease like breast cancer carry a risk of poverty??

In any case. Of course, it always depends on the employment relationship, the duration of the illness and the family situation, but I know many women who are unable to return to work after being diagnosed with breast cancer and receiving the appropriate therapy. Then the financial situation is often precarious and causes worry lines.

“Every case is different”

There is a lot of information about breast cancer on the Internet. However, one reads little about life with metastases. Did you still feel sufficiently informed? No. After the diagnosis of metastases I actually felt quite alone. I would have liked more information. After the metastasis diagnosis I actually felt quite alone. I would have wished for more information. What I missed most of all, however, was the exchange with other sufferers. I simply didn't know anyone who had also metastasized.

Other women with breast cancer were not good conversational partners?

Some do. For many, however, the topic of “metastases” is a big taboo.

What do you mean?

One example: When I was in rehab, I told a small group of people that my tumor had already spread – some of the other women literally backed away from me. I can understand that, but it was not an uplifting experience. These women were on the road to recovery. Want to come to terms with the disease. When I came along with my metastases, I could see the fear in their eyes that they might have a similar experience at a later date. A difficult realization for everyone in this group.

Have you found other people to talk to in the meantime?? Yes. I have built up a great community over time. Am also a member of various topic-specific Facebook groups. I have built a great community over time. I am also a member of various Facebook groups on specific topics. With some girls I write on the net, with others I meet in person. The understanding and appreciation in these groups are fantastic. I also find the “swarm intelligence” of the community extremely impressive and helpful. When I explain which medicine I should get soon, the others inform me immediately which side effects I should be prepared for.

Through contact with others affected by advanced breast cancer, you will also be confronted with death again and again. How do you deal with it?

Being confronted with the finite nature of life is a difficult borderline experience. If someone in the group dies, it is always terribly painful. Automatically, in such a situation, one quickly draws comparisons with one's own course of disease. Here I consciously try to distance myself. Telling me: Every case is different. According to statistics I have an unfavorable prognosis. But: I am still alive -. The extremely happy!

Can you also forget about the metastases in your body?

Yes, when I travel with my husband. I would love to go to England. If I get on the plane, my disease will not come with me. I leave them at home.

Editor's comment:

A few weeks ago and after we did this interview, Claudia was found to have a metastasis in her liver. This was on 24. May – together with another, previously not visible – surgically removed. A lymph node also had to be removed. We wish Claudia much strength, all the best and a speedy recovery!

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