#ChooseToChallenge in pink on cream background

International Women’s Day: Challenging the Breast Cancer Narrative

Today is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge. This really resonated with us as Rethink’s modus operandi is to help people affected by breast cancer live better and live longer, which requires bold thinking and challenging the status quo. We asked the changemakers on our Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board why they thought it was important to challenge the mainstream breast cancer narrative by amplifying the voices of the MBC community.  

Here’s what they had to say.  

MBC Board Member Suzanne Horvath sitting outside wearing white

Suzanne Horvath 

As a woman with MBC I want my daughter and son  to understand that we need to challenge the status quo with regard to healthcare. Equal access to life saving drugs is a right. Those with cancer should not have to fight for this right when they are most vulnerable. We are all individuals.  Our health path should serve our unique needs and support our health journey.  

Board chair Nathalie Baudais smiling at the camera wearing black

 Nathalie Baudais 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the estimated 5-year net survival rate for women with breast cancer is 88%. As someone who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at 32 years of age, I was not interested in the 5-year net survival rate. What were my chances of seeing my toddler grow up?  

I get tired of the messages that finding breast cancer early can save your life. Early detection does not mean that metastases won’t occur. Metastatic breast cancer affects people of all ages. We can do better. We need to do better. Help us advocate for people living with metastatic breast cancer to improve their lives, clinical outcomes, and survival rates. 

MBC Board member Vesna posing in a grey dress

Vesna Zic-Côté 

There are days when it feels like David vs Goliath in the Breast Cancer space. Decades of ‘You got this!’ and ‘It’s the good kind of cancer’ and ‘Don’t worry! It’s basically curable!’ And here I am, with the good kind of cancer, my cured status short-lived and oh-so-disappointing, standing on my soapbox saying, ‘Ummm, I hate to be a downer, but we got a problem here.’ I do this with the good kind of cancer that sits in my lungs and my bones and my tissues, in between scans and treatments, trying to live a good and purposeful life despite it all. Sometimes I feel heard, and sometimes I question if it’s all just meaningless noise. 

Even if we don’t say it out loud or often enough, we all know that sometimes things go sideways in cancer care even when they’re not supposed to. People with the good kind of cancer get blindsided with recurrence, sometimes years or decades after their initial diagnosis. Sometimes people find out their good kind of cancer has spread right from Day 1.  

In this space, we rarely hear the word ‘cure’ spoken anymore. It’s not good.  

It’s not good enough.  

Creating change starts with acknowledging the narrative we’ve all been complicit in sharing. The treatments for breast cancer are harsh, life changing and not always successful. Improving breast cancer outcomes for those with metastatic cancer requires effort and action by those in the breast cancer space. Challenge, acknowledge, take action. I challenge you to be a changemaker. 


Carmen Powell 

This International Women’s Day and everyday I choose to challenge the breast cancer narrative by amplifying all voices affected by breast cancer. The traditional breast cancer narrative is inaccurate, dismissive and exclusionary.  Breast cancer isn’t just about early stage, it’s also about metastatic disease. Breast cancer isn’t just about survivorship, it’s also about recurrence, grief and loss. It’s about all those who have been taken from us; they can not and should not be forgotten.  Breast cancer isn’t just about older people, it’s about young people too. It’s not just about white people, it’s about Black, Indigenous and people of color, too.  

The truth about the breast cancer narrative is that it isn’t inclusive of all people affected by it. Black women and women of color are often underrepresented and may experience a lack of support. Young people are told, “you’re too young to have breast cancer” and may experience delays in diagnosis. Those living with metastatic breast cancer are often left out of the traditional breast cancer stories, celebrations and fundraising, or worse, they are excluded from promising research and clinical trials. I choose to challenge the breast cancer narrative by learning from the Rethink community and my fellow MBC board members who can guide our practice around inclusion. I choose to challenge the narrative by sharing an accurate story about breast cancer and those affected by it. 

MBC Board Member Margaret Loniewska wearing a blue and white shirt and glasses

Margaret Loniewska 

#ChooseToChallenge the notions that breast cancer is “the good cancer”; doesn’t happen to young women; and that we can assume basic real world health data is already being utilized to improve health outcomes. It is estimated 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer. How many will get a recurrence? UNKNOWN. It’s estimated 1 in 33 will die of breast cancer. What about statistics about cancer and race? UNKNOWN. I #ChooseToChallenge that women with breast cancer are simply silent patients. They need to be vocal partners in health care research and policy development.   

Picture of Tasha Westerman facing the camera wearing white

Tasha Westerman

Everyone, regardless of gender, age, race or any difference should have access to the same lifesaving treatments. As an ally to people in this fight, I will #ChooseToChallenge the access of young women fighting to stay alive, who are living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, to the best treatments available.  Every life is important. 

Rethink’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Advisory Board was created to help empower people living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) by providing patient-focused insights on issues related to those affected by and concerned about MBC. Click here to meet the amazing team.

How will you choose to challenge? Tell us on social using the hashtag #ChooseToChallenge – be sure to tag us on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

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