In the Wake of October, From Someone With Metastatic Breast Cancer
It is November, and with that, another October’s worth of breast cancer awareness has come and gone. All of the signs encouraging people to “walk or run for the cure” are being replaced, social media chatter is back to politics and the press (that all so recently was focused on spreading knowledge and sharing stories of women and men living with breast cancer) are now to “how to prepare for the holidays.”
Most of the pink ribbon products — even those that went to help fund much-needed research — are now in the discount bin.
In the wake of this, many breast cancer patients, especially the estimated 155,000 of us living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also feel like we are in the discount bin. For one month, a year we get a chance to get our voices heard. People who have not been personally impacted by breast cancer care and want to help.
This October felt… different.
There was plenty of pink-washed fluff, but MBC (and those of us who have it) were more present than in years passed. It was talked about on the social media through The Mighty, on big websites like Refinery 29, on major network TV shows (including ABC’s “The View”) and through a celebrity-driven fundraising research campaign featuring Eva Longoria. I personally got to share my story, in both the print and online versions of “Glamour Magazine.” Oprah herself got into the action this October, by featuring some women living with MBC who had mastectomies, in her magazine.
The reason why MBC was more prevalent this year? I’d like to think it is because our society is starting to realize the seriousness of metastatic breast cancer. It is the only form of breast cancer that kills. An estimated 113 women and men die from it every single day in the US alone. That is a school bus, a theater, a small company. And one in eight women will get breast cancer in their lifetime, while 20-30 percent of early stage patients will go on to become metastatic.
Including the 10 percent of patients who were diagnosed metastatic de novo (from the start), like myself, that means about 35 percent of women (not including men) who are diagnosed with breast cancer will die from it.
However, I know better.
MBC awareness is not slowly starting to gain more mainstream momentum because people are “getting it.” In fact, many are too scared to bring it bring it up, understandably.
We like to focus on survivors, winners, and people with happy endings, and metastatic breast cancer patients generally do not get those labels. We ruin the pink party.
It was more discussed because, us as patients, pushed for it.
We reached out to media.
We found our own contacts.
And when no platforms were willing to listen, we created our own until there were.
We are a community with nothing left to lose but everything to gain, so we put ourselves and our lives out there publicly in ways we could never have imagined before our diagnosis.
We need to.
We have to.
Only seven percent of money for breast cancer research goes to funding metastatic breast cancer research. So desperate times call for desperate measures.
We only get one month a year when people outside of our bubbles care. And the reality is a lot of us may not be here for next October.
So, the question is, how can you (the readers of The Mighty) help us continue to push, advocate, educate and make people care year-round, and not just one month a year?
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Thinkstock photo by kimberrywood