Metastatic Breast Cancer: Seeking Inspiration
In 1974, First Lady Betty Ford announced that she had a mastectomy, she joined a handful of prominent women who were breaking the breast cancer silence barrier. Before that, breast cancer (BCa) and mastectomy were whispered about behind closed doors. Now, countless women got on board with life-saving early detection (breast self-exams, mammograms).
Celebrities who share their experience with a life-threatening condition, and radiate a positive outlook, do all of us a great service. Because of their fame, they are already in the spotlight. Now they can generously share that limelight to both raise awareness about a disease and support a funding drive for research.
Identification brings inspiration
Just as importantly, they give thousands of people reason for hope. Being diagnosed with a scary disease like breast cancer – or any cancer – not only raises worries and fears. It also tends to make a patient feel isolated. There’s a good chance that those nearest and dearest to them have not been through the same experience, leaving the patient feeling alone and not well understood.
When celebrities go public, we can be sure they’ve given much thought to that decision. It’s hard enough for them to maintain privacy about their personal lives, let alone their bodies. By transcending their individual journey, they model the importance of breaking through isolation into the world of patient support.
Shortage of celebrity role models for metastatic breast cancer
In 2007, Elizabeth Edwards (wife of Senator John Edwards from North Carolina) revealed that she had been diagnosed with recurrent, metastatic BCa just three years after she had been treated for localized disease—and believed that she had been cured. Though not having the same celebrity stature of Angelina Jolie, Ms. Edwards’ story led to a news report that heartened one woman who was diagnosed in 2009 with metastatic BCa to the bone. Now the author of a blog titled “I HATE BREAST CANCER…especially the metastatic kind”, she wrote, “I wouldn’t care to be a celebrity let alone an ill celebrity in the national spotlight. I can’t comment on Edwards’ personal or political life. But I am so grateful that she talked about having metastatic breast cancer.” Then, when she tried to find similar stories, she couldn’t find any.
Eva Longoria’s sister inspired action
Actress Eva Longoria is committed to supporting the cause of metastatic BCa research because of her sister’s diagnosis with Stage 1 BCa. While her sister appears to have been successfully treated for localized disease, it came to Eva’s attention that metastatic breast cancer (MBC) was still in the shadows when it came to women’s consciousness. Together with Novartis, a Swiss healthcare/pharmaceutical company, in Sept. 2017 she launched the “Kiss This 4 MCB” campaign to raise awareness and funds.
Seeking (and finding) inspiration
The examples of celebrities who are committed to spreading the news about MBC and other diseases motivates action. Because of their own energy and access to publicity, they have contributed directly or indirectly to end the silence and feeling of isolation.
Today, women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer don’t need to feel alone with their fears, questions and anxieties. The national education/empowerment/advocacy organization Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) connects newly diagnosed MBC patients with information, resources, and each other. Another program, Metavivor, likewise pursues funding for research and just as importantly, strives to link patients with local support groups where possible.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, don’t give up hope. Research is ongoing to find a cure, and meanwhile there are better systemic and localized therapies to manage and control the disease and its symptoms. For instance, the Sperling Medical Group offers MRI-guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS) for the treatment of painful bone metastasis from breast cancer. Not only does this reduce the burden of the cancer on the body, it also controls pain quickly and durably.
Perhaps most important of all, remember that you are not alone. Untold numbers of women are facing MBC and generating positive coping mechanisms. They can be the source of inspiration to help get you through the difficult days, and celebrate the good days – something every cancer patient can use.
- Bone mets