Victoria: Advocating for Acknowledgment of MBC
When I was 42 years old, I had a hysterectomy. Tests done at the time showed that I was at risk for breast cancer. Unfortunately, the hospital chose to ignore these results. In September 2007, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer and told that I had a 80% chance of being alive in 10 years. Once again, doctors made a questionable decision - they ignored my comments about pain in my hip and shoulder. I started adjuvant chemo as part of a trial, but my hip continued to deteriorate.
In January 2008, my doctors finally investigated the pain in my hip. My hip had deteriorated so much that I was hospitalized and had a total hip replacement a few days later. I was told I had metastatic breast cancer, and that I had six months to a year to live; then one to two years; then two to three. Nearly five years later, I am still here!
Learning to live with this diagnosis has been a long, hard journey, but ultimately, it has been a rewarding one. It has made me learn to live for this moment in which I am alive.
That is not to say that I don't get depressed; however, I feel that I am better able to deal with depression than before. I eat well, practice mindfulness based stress reduction, take supplements and blog about my experiences. I think these things along with conventional treatment have helped to keep my cancer stable for the past four years. It has taken time to find the hope that has emerged from concentrating on what I do have. Mindfulness taught me to ‘micro-meditate' and to remember to come back to the present; this helps me regain control when things seem to be overwhelming. Thinking about the beauty of the world and staying close to friends help to remind me that I have all that I need right now.
I started a metastatic breast cancer advocacy group on facebook to call attention to, what I perceive to be, a lack of public acknowledgment of the experiences of women and men with mbc. I firmly believe that if people with mbc were truly included in the breast cancer community it would reduce the fear that many feel of becoming Stage IV. I would like people to understand that this disease affects men and women regardless of race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation. The advocacy group I started has pushed for the media to acknowledge our stories and hear our voices. Involvement in advocacy work helps me stay connected and involved.
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