By: Esther Garza
As you probably know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month but October 13 is specifically designated as National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) is the most advanced stage of breast cancer (stage IV) and means that the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs in the body. For example, if someone’s breast cancer has spread to their bones, or liver, it’s not bone or liver cancer; it is breast cancer that has metastasized.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, it was discovered to have already spread and I became a part of the metastatic group. Although there is no cure for MBC, I am one of the very, very few whose cancer has gone into remission and I am now a 10-year “metathriver”. My medical team will never tell me that I am cured, only that I am in remission and the statistics show that it is just a matter of time before the disease becomes active again. Most people diagnosed with MBC, undergo chemo and/or radiation on a regular basis until their medications are no longer effective.
No one knows why a small percentage of MBC patients are long-term responders but, in an effort to stay as healthy as I can, I try to eat real/whole foods and limit my intake of sugar, grains and packaged/processed foods. Am I 100% successful? No, but I try …super hard. I also try to get regular exercise, and reduce my exposure to toxins such as those in the environment, chemical cleansers, and many body products. Basically, I do a lot of things the way my grandparents did like cook from scratch, eat vegetables from my garden (or farmer’s market) and use simple DIY household items to clean with. I also draw on my faith to help me cope with my disease and for strength. I think this lifestyle has helped me but no one really knows for sure. Every MBC patient is unique and experiences vary. I do know that more MBC patients are living longer and there’s a crucial need for more research dollars to find new treatments for Stage IV patients and maybe one day, a cure. MBC patients need aggressive research and action….now. We also need to start educating the public about MBC….now.
When I first approached about joining a MBC support group, I shied away because I thought it would be a sad and depressing group. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The IV League, a support group hosted by the Breast Cancer Resource Center (Austin), is a group of women living to their fullest! Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but through it all, we have found strength in our numbers. Not only do we get emotional support from each other, we also learn about the latest treatments, studies and research. I encourage everyone with any type of chronic disease to join a support group. The lessons learned are invaluable.
In an effort to help educate people about MBC, I recently participated in an initiative that was created to promote public understanding of metastatic breast cancer, http://www.storyhalftold.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/storyhalftold Look for my story to be featured on that site later this month and please feel free to share it! It’s time to stop sweeping the topic of MBC under the rug and time to start talking about it.