It’s a grim prospectus for anyone, but Jocius, a lifelong emergency preparedness coordinator and educator, has tackled her maladies headlong.
She has spent the past six years learning about and educating others about the disease that has impacted every aspect of her life.
“Right now, I am the emergency,” she said last month while trumpeting Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, which fell on Sunday, Oct. 13. “I have learned everything I can about cancer. After I find out, I turn around and educate people.”
Jocius lives with her husband of 38 years, Don, and has decided that she is going to test new drugs and treatments to alleviate the disease.
Jocius path, she said, has been fairly typical for someone with metastatic breast cancer.
After being diagnosed more than six years ago, she had a mastectomy followed by radiation in an attempt to fully remove the cancer before it spread.
“It is very traumatic to a woman,” she said. “It’s embarrassing. You feel like a piece of meat.”
Several years later she felt a lump in her shoulder which felt long and sinewy. A trip to the physician and a PET scan revealed that the breast cancer had metastasized to the shoulder — a typical path for cancer to move. At that point, she said, a cancer victim is considered to be in Stage IV, and incurable. The cancer had entered her lymph nodes, meaning that there was a high probability it would continue to move.
She made the decision to try any, and all treatment options that were available to extend her life, and perhaps destroy the cancer.
“Some people consider me a guinea pig. I consider myself a trailblazer.”
Jocius went through six months of heavy chemotherapy that kills all fast-growing cells, including hair, toenails, cells inside her mouth and digestive system. She said food tastes like metal, blisters form inside the mouth and there are many side effects related to digestion.
She is finished with chemotherapy for the time being and takes a host of drugs in pill form, so that she is able to grow hair and live a better quality of life.
However, Jocius said that each cancer patient is different and that the treatment and side effects has to be unique to each case. Blistering, for example, is something Jocius lives with.
“When I walk, it feels like I am walking on hot sand at the Boardwalk, all the time,” she said.
Jocius said the usual life expectancy of someone with metastatic breast cancer is three years.
“I’m over the average by seven months,” Jocius said. “I’m living on borrowed time.”
She attends Women Care, a support group in Soquel for women with cancer, and receives meals from Santa Cruz Teen Kitchen, an Aptos group of teen volunteers that prepare healthy meals for cancer victims using donated produce from local organic farmers.
“I’m going to enjoy today, that’s my attitude” Jocius said. “Most women who are in metastatic feel very discouraged that they won’t be able to see their little babies grow up.”
Jocius also blogs each night at www.caringbridge.org/visit/patjocius2012, and tries to educate people about her treatment and journey with cancer.
“It’s the thread of my life; learn everything I can about cancer and help people make wise decisions. That’s just the style of my life,” she said.
Less than two months ago Jocius was dealt another blow when four tumors were found in her brain. She qualified for a treatment called the CyberKnife radio surgery which uses radio waves to pinpoint and cut out cancerous cells. She underwent the surgery successfully, and is cancer-free in her brain.
“It’s the perfect ‘Star Trek’ Dr. Bones type of thing,” she said, noting one of her favorite TV shows.
Jocius said she will continue to educate others about cancer, as long as she can.
“Cancer is stupid because it’s killing the host,” she said. “I am Mormon and have a Christian belief that I will live on. I will beat cancer in the end.”