I’m a mother of 3 young children, and I’m living with metastatic breast cancer.
I was first diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer when I was 38 and pregnant with my youngest child. I felt a lump in my breast and asked my obstetrician to take a look at it. She assured me it was probably nothing, since breast tissue changes so much in early pregnancy.
But it was something. I could tell immediately from the look on the face of the sonogram technician.
After my diagnosis, a surgeon robotically sketched out my options without seeming to understand how scared and overwhelmed my husband and I were. We left without asking any real questions, and then sat in the parking lot and cried.
Soon after, I connected with another breast surgeon who had experience treating pregnant women and a great bedside manner. I underwent a mastectomy and chemotherapy, and then radiation after my daughter was born.
Two years later, when I was 41, a trip to the emergency room revealed that the cancer had returned in my spine. My husband and I were emotionally overwhelmed again, but we didn’t have time to wallow in it. I underwent immediate spinal surgery and faced my new reality while recovering from it.
I’m very lucky to have an amazing medical team and a strong support system. I try to stay positive for my husband, our beautiful children, and myself, and enjoy every day with them. I have no choice but to carry on.
I’m a very private person. It took me time to talk about my diagnosis with others, and it’s still hard for me today. Many times I’m told with some surprise that I look healthy. People expect patients with metastatic breast cancer to appear gaunt, weak, or sickly—definitely older.
People in many different phases of life have metastatic breast cancer. This disease doesn’t discriminate.
I think it’s great that breast cancer gets so much attention in society. There’s a lot of focus on positive stories, inspiring research, and women waging brave battles. I know it’s harder to talk about a disease that doesn’t have a very happy ending, but I’d like to see more focus on metastatic breast cancer.
More attention would mean more research and support for people like me who are living with it every day. I want to see my children grow up, and I’m hoping advancement in medicine will help me do it.
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Photography by Don Heiny and Frank Pronesti.