Attention Survivors and Previvors: Let’s Do Something Amazing
We come across them everywhere. In our families, cancer care clinics, online survivor or previvor groups and just in everyday passing. When found in a situation of talking to someone with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC | Stage IV | Incurable Cancer) you may find that you get hit by the awkward stick. Tripping over what you should say while possibly tackling internal feelings of sorrow, guilt, pity, empathy or even just straight up unfamiliarity with their situation.
I used to be that person who would much rather run away then try to gently tip toe around hard conversations about topics that created sorrow and guilt. As a previvor until 2015 I didn’t even give space to the thought of dying from cancer. Then after my diagnosis of early stage breast cancer I found the topic of MBC extremely hard. No one wants to think of dying. When I went to training to become a Peer to Peer Women’s Cancer Support Facilitator, the thought that scared me the most about holding meetings for survivors/previvors was the possibility of someone with Stage IV cancer joining us. I had visions of people crying and talking about death and scaring everyone away or, even worse, having someone with Incurable Cancer feel completely out of place, and that terrified me.
It really came to my attention once I stepped into the Rethink Breast Cancer’s 2017 Stretch, Heal, Grow in Muskoka. I knew there would be people who were terminal there but honestly, I thought there would only be 1 or 2 since this was geared to young women. It wasn’t until we were sitting at the fire-pit and sharing our stories that I discovered I was completely clueless. Women with long hair and short hair, all looking healthy and happy, were confessing that they would be in treatment for the rest of their lives.
These women were not scary at all. They were the faces of my new friends, people whose lives were similar to mine. They did not make me feel bad or even like my own cancer was going to return because it was happening to them. Instead, I was able to separate my own cancer diagnosis from theirs and that’s when I attempted to shut up and learn.
I started being more open to my sister’s MBC diagnosis. Through watching her wade the waters of treatments, and meeting more women with Metastatic Breast Cancer, I learned about #MetMonday, #Metavivor, and the special MBC teams at the CIBC Run for the Cure. All these strong voices just wanting to live and in dire need of more resources and access to life extending medications, research studies and overall a better and tolerable quality of life.
There need to be more voices, more allies
There need to be more people willing to help amplify the voices of this group of cancer patients. As Survivors and Previvors we often find ourselves advocating for much needed help for ourselves, but can you imagine if we helped convey the messages of those who need treatments, clinical trials and a cure right now?
I’m not saying that we should stop what we are doing and go balls to the wall here (although that would be cool). I’m just thinking that you would be amazed how much more to Stage IV cancer there is. Arming yourselves with the MBC basics would allow for less awkward conversations and more inclusivity. There are so many ways to get involved from bearing witness to an MBC patient’s life story to helping on advocacy projects that are currently circulating across Canada.
Together, I truly believe we can make changes by giving the MBC community our helping hand. As Previvors, Survivors and Terminal Patients, together we all have the same goal: to live.
What is MBC all about and how can we help?
Arm yourselves with the basics.
Decide today that you will no longer #IgnoreStageIV. Rethink
Breast Cancer’s website is honestly a fantastic start. They have a great collection of information to educate yourselves on what MBC is, blog posts about the fantastic MBC women in our network, and highlights of Rethink’s current Advocacy efforts.
On Social Media? Help amplify the MBC Voices
Right now, social media is one of the fastest ways to spread the stories and needs of our MBC Sisters. For example, on #METSMONDAY you will find that a lot of MBC advocates share their stories. Honestly, letting someone share their story is the easiest way to make them feel included and could possibly provide an “I am not alone” moment for someone on your friends list.
Organizations like Rethink Breast Cancer will often post online petitions or surveys. Read it, sign it and please, please share it like this survey for MBC patients and their caregivers.
Keep listening, educating and empowering yourself.
Remember that with our help, we can amplify the needs, stories and memories of those dealing with Terminal Metastatic Breast Cancer.
Together we can make a difference.
Laura Rice is a member of Rethink’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board. She is a wife and mother of 3 young girls, as well as a Freelance Graphic Designer from Collingwood, Ontario. While navigating life after Triple Negative Breast Cancer treatment, Laura found purpose through supporting those diagnosed with cancer as well as those who like herself carry a genetic mutation that predisposes them to developing cancer. Laura currently volunteers for the Canadian Cancer Society as a Peer to Peer support facilitator and Co Run Director for the Blue Mountain/Collingwood CIBC Run for the Cure.