Going Strong 10 Years Later with Metastatic Breast Cancer

by Phyllis Johnson Patient Advocate

Scene One: The family matriarch announces that the cancer has spread.

Scene Two: The family gathers at the gravesite.

The rest of the movie: Grieving widower and daughter learn to move on.

The Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN) is rewriting this script with a section on its website called 10+ Years. Here you can read 13 stories of people who have lived with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) for more than 10 years. Some of the people like Sue were originally diagnosed with early stage breast cancers and took the recommended treatments. Then they were shocked when the cancer returned years later. Bob's story reminds us that men can get breast cancer too. Terlisa was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at age 31 while pregnant. Since 2003, she has been living with metastasis (or mets) to her bones, lungs, liver, and brain. Rita was 74 when she shared her story of living with metastatic breast cancer for more than 30 years. She passed away in 2009.

Another section of the website called Your Stories includes the stories of anyone living with metastatic breast cancer. The MBCN encourages people to write in saying, "This is the place to have your voice heard. We invite you to share your story with all of us. We know that you have an important and unique story to tell and we would like to listen to it. Telling your story is a powerful way to give voice to the experience of living with metastatic breast cancer. Your story may help others facing similar circumstances. Your experience coping with cancer can benefit someone else by providing strength, encouragement, hope and inspiration."

Speaking up is an important part of living with cancer. HealthCentral offers you a place to share your experiences as a patient or caretaker in a sharepost or question whatever the stage of breast cancer. If you are a private sort of person, you can talk to a friend or write in a journal. Cancer brings such a jumble of emotions that need sorting out.

Reading about the struggles and successes of these people living with MBC is inspiring, not because they paint a pretty picture, but because they are real. It's important to know that the words, "The cancer has spread," don't mean the story is over.

Jill, who has been living with MBC for 12 years, sums it up well: "My philosophy? 'Dum vivimus, vivamus: while we live, let us live!' Life is precious, and in a very real sense, we all have the same amount of time. Today."

Phyllis Johnson
Meet Our Writer
Phyllis Johnson

Phyllis Johnson is an inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) survivor diagnosed in 1998. She has written about cancer for HealthCentral since 2007. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the oldest 501(3)(c) organization focused on research for IBC. Phyllis attends conferences such as the National Breast Cancer Coalition’s Project LEAD® Institute. She tweets at @mrsphjohnson.