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Metastatic Breast Cancer and Success

Mother’s Day, is a special day for me. I spent it at the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure in Philadelphia, Pa. It was emotionally difficult for me to attend. I know what it means to lose a mother at a young age to breast cancer. And, I watched breast cancer take down my mother’s generation like target practice. In my generation, to expand on breast cancer’s impact, three women the ages of 32, 34, and 47 respectively have succumbed to the disease. I understand losing the battle to both early-stage breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer diagnoses. I needed to give you the back drop of my history because I want you to understand my definition of Metastatic Breast Cancer and Success.

Metastatic breast cancer is incurable. I was diagnosed in October 2003. So, you see success and metastatic breast cancer are two words that may seem to be incompatible. How could I measure success and metastatic breast cancer when the disease is incurable? And, how could I measure success when so many people in my life have succumbed to the disease?  Here is how.

Komen Philadelphia had its first Metastatic Breast Cancer—Forever Fighters Tent at the Race for the Cure this year. As a metastatic patient, I and several other women worked hard with Komen Philadelphia to incorporate educational material, doctors and women living with the disease in order to help those affected we would meet that day. As I worked, I could see three types of people circling the vicinity of the tent.

Group one wanted to be armed. They were women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Whatever materials we had, they added them to their information base. They also talked with the doctors made available by Komen Philadelphia. Group number two and three were a mixed group. Some stood at a comfortable distance from the words metastatic breast cancer labeled on the tent. They wanted to come in but lingered at the border. Still some others standing near seemed to be afraid. So, how was success achieved you wonder? These were the women I met at their invisible barrier line.

It gave me the opportunity to explain the importance of early detection. It gave me the opportunity to stand quietly and let them pour out their heart’s fears about the disease. It gave me the opportunity to explain what it meant to be diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I explained to them the reality of metastatic breast cancer and the challenges. I also had the opportunity to let them know that each woman working with me had various years of metastatic breast cancer survivorship victory rates. One woman in our group had been living with the disease for more that sixteen years.

My heart ached. I cried as they cried. We hugged and held each other close. So again you may ask, how do I measure success at the Komen Philadelphia—Forever Fighter’s tent? I measure success by bringing an increased public awareness to those who know very little about metastatic breast cancer. I measure success by talking with families that have lost loved ones to this ugly disease as I have. I measure success by human contact. That success is just as important as the need for more research and changing the way women with early-stage cancers are counted as they become women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.

Lastly, the Komen Philadelphia Race for the Cure wasn’t just about the flow of pink alone. It was about bringing metastatic breast cancer out of the dark into the light of a new dawn of understanding and awareness. I have spoken life and hope from the voices of those who have went before me. That’s how I measure Metastatic Breast Cancer and Success. I…we… our group gives thanks to Komen Philadelphia for all their hard work. They made it possible for us to come out of the shadows! Once again, thank you.

 

Felicia Johnson,
Metastatic Forever Fighter

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