With all the awareness that is out there and how common breast cancer is, most people have no clue what Metastatic Breast Cancer is! At least once a week I meet someone who has never heard of Metastatic Breast Cancer. People hear of woman dying from breast cancer but usually you see the emphasis on “survivors”. People think that breast cancer is a scary phase of someones life, which it is but you will ultimately overcome it. And boy do I wish that was my case.
Most people who talk to me say, “You will beat this” or “How much longer do you have in treatment” or someone who was once close to me said, “well you look healthy so you must be”.
Now to defend everyone.
Almost everyone (except one person I have encountered) truly do not mean to be insensitive. Its just that breast cancer awareness focuses on prevention and lower stages like stages 0-3. You hear stories of from survivors that they had a lumpectomy or a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and hormones. All of this is exactly what I believed too! All of which I thought would possibly be in my future. I thought the same thing. I too have survivor friends and that’s what I witnessed. I really believed that maybe all I needed was a double mastectomy where they chop off my boobs and I’ll be fine. Who doesn’t want fake boobs!?!
This is where awareness has failed many of us! Many awareness champions don’t explain that 30% of survivors will still become metastatic “stage 4” at some point, some woman like me are DeNovo which means they have always been stage 4 since their diagnosis and why & how is breast cancer deadly.
Let’s see if I can make it simple. Stages 0-3 means the cancer has not left the breast. Which means you will live, you get to do some or all of the steps I listed above and you become a survivor. (Sorry survivors if I made your struggle sound easy. No one’s journey no matter what stage it is is easy).
Stage 4 “metastatic” means your breast cancer cells have spread to other parts of your body. When it spreads it becomes much harder to control and can ultimately become deadly. And it also means that at some point you WILL die from this damn thing called breast cancer, or an infection or from treatment related side effects. Well actually it really just means you have a much higher risk of dying from it, I could still die from getting into a car accident, plane crash or choking like everyone else. But medically i’m grouped into the terminally ill classification because there is not a cure.
When I first learned of metastatic breast cancer, I was told to compare it to diabetes. They are in no way similar. The only thing that is similar is that you will be in constant treatment for the rest of your life trying to keep your disease stable. What is “stable”? Stable means your tumors are not growing. And if you’re really lucky you can see them shrink and in some cases go NED (No Evidence of Disease) which is everyone’s goal.
Long story straight is that instead of battling chemo for something like 6 weeks, i’ll be on chemo possibly indefinitely which was really hard to process. Or another type of treatment with tons of side effects if my chemo fails which will be for another blog post!
***I am not a expert and is my way of breaking it down when I tell people about metastatic breast cancer
Larissa Podermanski-- Metastatic BC Thriver