A Story of Metastatic Breast Cancer

This month Katie has shared her family’s breast cancer story to help spread breast cancer awareness and has graciously offered to allow me to share my family’s experience today here on her blog. I’m Susan and I blog at Love in the Kitchen where I share my passion for cooking easy and tasty homemade food with fresh ingredients with you.  I hope you will stop over for a visit!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  But for my family, November is our “breast cancer month.”  You see, November is the month that my sister found out that her breast cancer, which had been gone for three years, had come back, and had metastasized into her liver.

I don’t want to rain on October’s pink parade, but I’d like to share some sobering statistics about Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC).

 

  • 6-10% of new breast cancer cases are initially Stage IV or metastatic.

  • 20-30% of all breast cancer cases will become metastatic

  • somewhere between 155,000 and 250,000 people are living with MBC in the US right now

  • approximately 40,000 people will die this year (and continue to die annually)  from MBC – and that number hasn’t really changed since the mid 1990s

 

No one dies from breast cancer that remains in the breast. Metastasis occurs when cancerous cells travel to a vital organ and that is what threatens life.  Metastasis refers to the spread of cancer to different parts of the body, typically the bones, liver, lungs and brain.

There is no cure for metastatic breast cancer.  Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control of the disease and quality of life.  Metastatic breast cancer is not an automatic and immediate death sentence. Although most people will ultimately die of their disease, some will live long and productive lives.

So what do you do if your loved one is diagnosed with MBC?  Be there – physically and emotionally.  Listen when they need to talk.  Offer to run an errand or do the laundry.  And keep offering.  They may not be able to say yes to help right away.  Understand that they may not have the energy they used to have, and let it not be a big deal.

 

Take care of yourself so that you can be there for them.  Find someone to whom you can vent.  The one good thing about being the one with the cancer is that they don’t have to listen to people tell them that “Life is so unfair” or “Why me?”  {this is a great article about the circles of kvetching – and figuring out what not to say}  They get to complain to you, you can complain to someone else.

 

But you don’t have to treat them differently.  Remember that they are the same person they were before their diagnosis.  I told my sister a few weeks after her diagnosis that she never asked my husband and me if it was okay if her cancer came back, and since we didn’t approve, she would just have to get rid of it so we could follow through with our plan to retire together in a beach house in Kauai.  My mom was horrified.  My sister laughed.  Both were right.  I {probably} wouldn’t have said the same kind of thing to my mom if she were in that situation.  But I know my sister would have expected something like that from me.  She needed to hear it and I needed to be able to say it.

 

And so we keep going.  We still cry sometimes, but not every day.  We laugh and take vacations.  We share recipes and talk about our daily trials.  We make plans.  We’ll keep doing all of those things.  Until we can’t.  And then we’ll cope with whatever comes next.

 

For those who have never been touched by breast cancer, count your lucky stars.  For those of us who have, keep up the good fight.  We all need to celebrate the successes that research continues to enable.  Stand with our sisters and brothers who won’t get to celebrate a cancer-free diagnosis.  Be there for those whose fight is over.

 

Keep making plans.  And cherish each moment that you have.

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