Nancy Stordahl blogs about why everyone, including those with early-stage breast cancer, need to show support for the issues affecting people with metastatic breast cancer.
I am pleased and honored to be part of Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s public education initiative called, Beyond the Breast. The purpose of this effort is to continue to educate the public and those diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer about what metastatic breast cancer is. So many people are unaware that breast cancer can, and too often does, become deadly when it metastasizes or moves beyond the breast, hence the campaign and hashtag, #beyondthebreast.
Year after year it continues to boggle my mind that so many people have never even heard of the word metastatic. Such a fact seems unfathomable to me when one considers all the hoopla that has been going on for decades now during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This is not the public’s fault.
Rather, this a BIG fail of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s an unacceptable failure.
For too long the emphasis every October, in fact, all year-long, has been primarily on early detection, and early diagnosis.
Early detection is important, but it is not the whole story. And the whole story matters. It always does.
Why should those diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer concern themselves with metastatic breast cancer?
Why should we all care?
There are plenty of reasons, but I’ll start with these:
- If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, you or your loved one could become metastatic sometime down the road. Just because a person is diagnosed at an early stage, this does not mean her/his cancer cannot potentially metastasize and become stage IV later on. And this can happen even many years later. This is not meant to be a scare tactic; it is meant to be fact sharing.
- Some women and men are diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer at initial diagnosis. Being diagnosed at any stage is tough, but being diagnosed stage IV right out of the gate is beyond tough. Way beyond. And it does not mean the person did anything wrong. The stigma of not catching it early has to end. It must end.
- In order to discover effective ways to prevent, detect and treat metastases, we need to extensively research everything about stage IV. We need to try to figure out why some cancers metastasize, how to slow it down when it does happen, or better yet how to stop it in its tracks. We also need to figure out better and less harsh treatment options for those living with stage IV now. We need more research dollars spent specifically on mets-related research. Lots more.
- It’s only logical to support those in greatest need, is it not? Stage IV women and men deserve MORE support, not less, which ironically has often been the case in awareness campaigns of past and in research dollar allotments as well. We simply cannot allow this to be the case any longer.
- All breast cancer patients matter. We need to fully embrace, include and advocate for our stage IV sisters and brothers because we are all in this together and because it’s the right thing to do.
Advocating for those with metastatic breast cancer is very important to me. My mother died from metastatic breast cancer in 2008. Her cancer was detected early, “only” a stage II cancer four years earlier. A lumpectomy and radiation were supposed to be enough. They weren’t. I have had too many friends die from this disease as well. Too many families have been impacted by metastatic breast cancer, just too many.
I will not forget. I cannot forget. None of us should.
It is the responsibility of all who are able to advocate for our stage IV sisters and brothers.
We need everyone’s voice. We need everyone’s efforts to move the conversation and the research efforts along.
So this October, or any time of year for that matter, start a conversation with someone.
Need ideas on how to do that?
Try simply asking, “Did you know?”
Help others “know,” Help others understand.
Because as so many of us have been saying for quite some time now,
Breast cancer awareness without mets awareness, isn’t awareness at all.
Join the conversation.
Share the hashtag #beyondthebreast.
Help make change happen.
Read more of Nancy’s insight on breast cancer at Nancy’s Point.