Can we say happy Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day? Frankly—hell, no.
It is not one of those clubs you wish to join. Yet, an estimated 160,000 of us have membership in MBC, but the survival rates for us have improved only slightly over the past forty years.
As anyone with MBC can tell you, we are a group who live in the shadow of our surviving breast cancer sisters. When you have MBC, most people assume you are going to be healed or cured; they do not understand that metastatic or advanced or stage 4 breast cancer is terminal. Sometimes, even attending meetings with others with breast cancer who have a more promising prognosis, or as some may call it, a future, makes it evident that women with MBC are outsiders: we are uncomfortable reminders that this disease can return. No one wants to think about that; no one wants us to douse the sparkle of survival. And especially not any of us with MBC.
Pink for awareness is great, especially for drawing attention to early detection, which increases one’s chance of survival. But, the awareness needs to include the gruesome side of breast cancer that still kills. Many people seem to think that because early detection has helped to increase the survival rate of many women diagnosed with breast cancer, the danger of dying from this disease is gone. Sadly, that is not the case. Current data indicate that the average survival is two to three years (after MBC diagnosis), though we know others living beyond that and even some past ten years. In addition, some 30 percent of all diagnosed with breast cancer will become metastatic.
We need a strong focus on funding research for advanced cancer: to halt its progression and to extend our lives so that the median age of survival allows us to live out a normal life span, no matter what age the diagnosis. Perhaps then we might live to hear the word cure.
To all my metsisters, L’Chaim.
Click to learn more about supporting the resolution to declare October 13 as National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.