By Jean Sachs, MSS, MLSP
For nearly two decades I have dedicated my professional life to educating and supporting women, men and families whose lives have been impacted by breast cancer. Over these years I have met so many incredible people who have faced this disease with courage and grace. Every time I meet someone living with metastatic breast cancer, her story has a profound impact on me. LBBC is and has been committed to being there for these women and men.
In 2006, LBBC learned through its groundbreaking survey of women with metastatic breast cancer what I had heard so many times from my conversations with women living with the disease. They often felt alone, poorly understood and served. The survey’s title, Silent Voices: Women with Advanced (Metastatic) Breast Cancer Share Their Needs and Preferences for Information, Support and Practical Resources, reflected this.
Before our study, women with MBC had never been asked about their needs as they faced the reality of a diagnosis that means they will always be in treatment. The survey also told us how isolated and alone women with MBC feel within the larger breast cancer community, especially during October when the focus of Breast Cancer Awareness Month skews heavily toward those newly diagnosed or whose treatment has ended—those who appear, at least on the surface, to be doing well.
LBBC took the information shared by our MBC survey respondents and began developing programs specifically for women with MBC to educate, connect and support them. Our Annual Conference for Women Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer was founded in 2007, and specialized guides, webinars and peer support soon followed. We began to focus our October educational programs toward MBC.
Thirteen personal stories will be posted over 13 hours, written by women and men living with metastatic disease, their caregivers and healthcare professionals. The posts will appear on a special webpage on lbbc.org as well as on our organizational blog, livingbeyondbc.wordpress.com. Going forward, the LBBC Blog will feature at least one MBC focused post a month under the Hear My Voice banner.
It is my hope that this October the national conversation will start shifting to include more messages about MBC and many more voices discussing it year round. National organizations, including LBBC, have already formed the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance (MBCA), a group of patient advocacy organizations and industry partners seeking to improve the lives of and outcomes for those with metastatic breast cancer and their families. MBCA seeks to increase awareness and education about the disease, advance policy and strategic coordination of research funding. This group will release a landscape analysis of MBC research and services on October 13. Together we have a louder voice and more strength to respond to the needs of those living with metastatic breast cancer.
All of this brings me back to my intertwined personal and professional commitment to LBBC- creating a world where no one impacted by breast cancer feels uninformed or alone. Our work continues.