Here is the statement I made at today's press conference (see below for details). Thanks so much to Dr. Hedy Fry for introducing the Private Members' Bill and especially to the Canadian Breast Cancer Network for being a tireless advocate for women living with metastasis.
"Cate Edwards, daughter of the late Elizabeth Edwards has said, 'Before my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, I assumed breast cancer patients fell into two categories: survivors and those who lost the battle.'
Before my own diagnosis, I would have said the same thing.
I learned I had breast cancer in 2006, when I was 38 years old, with two little kids. Three months aftIer I completed treatment, the cancer had spread to my liver. However, I responded well to treatment and 7 months later was in full remission.
In November 2012, I was diagnosed with a metastasis to my brain. After conventional and cyber knife surgeries, I was once again able to embrace the words “no evidence of disease.” I will be in treatment for the rest of my life and, as there are no drugs that effectively cross the brain-blood barrier, I live from scan to scan trying not to dwell on the inevitability of the next brain tumour.
This is my story. I have known far too many incredible young women, who have done everything they were supposed to do to be healthy and who have not lived to share theirs.
Like most women living with metastatic breast cancer, I hate the onslaught of pink that hits us every October. I don't feel that all the talk of “feeling your boobies”, of battles won and lost has much to do with me. Much more relevant to me are clinical trials, drug coverage, quality of life and the long term effects of treatment.
The prevailing theme during Breast Cancer Awareness month, or as many of us call it, “Pinktober”is “stay positive, get through it and then move on.” For those of us living with mets, for whom moving on will never be an option, the unintended message is that we have somehow failed at having cancer.
Despite – or perhaps because metastatic breast cancer is stage 4 (there is no stage 5), very little emphasis is placed on metastasis in fundraising or awareness campaigns. The specter of death doesn't feel very hopeful. Yet that is where the emphasis should be.
While it's true that there has been very little decline in the number of deaths from breast cancer in the last couple of decades, many more of us are living longer. And that is very hopeful.
It is in understanding and committing research to end metastatic breast cancer that we will really find a cure. Given that, it doesn't seem very greedy to be asking for one day every year."