When Linda C. isn’t hiking and enjoying nature, she’s finding new ways to live creatively through art and creating memories with family and friends. She also faces a challenge that more than 150,000 other people in the United States face — Linda is living with metastatic breast cancer.
Linda, 60, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer 15 years ago. But breast cancer wasn’t new for her. She’d been diagnosed and treated with an earlier stage of the disease three years prior.
“My main goal is to make a difference in the lives of those living with breast cancer and to provide inspiration by example,” she says. “We can do more together, as a community, than we can on our own.”
Metastatic breast cancer (MBC), also known as Stage IV breast cancer, is the most advanced stage of breast cancer and occurs when the cancer has spread from its original location to a distant location in the body.
Like Linda, nearly 30 percent of people diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will experience disease progression and later develop MBC. While treatments may help manage MBC, the cancer is incurable and, for many, that brings a great deal of uncertainty. Linda compares her metastatic breast cancer journey to a rollercoaster.
“After digesting that my cancer had returned, I had no idea how long I might live,” she says. “This is where the rollercoaster started heading toward its crest.”
“Then there was the next hill, and on it goes. Waiting for a CAT scan, an echocardiogram, and lab results keeps the rollercoaster moving, as does wondering when the cancer may begin to grow again.”
Linda was diagnosed with human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)-positive metastatic breast cancer. HER2 is a protein found on the surface of cells that are associated with tumor growth. Approximately 1 in 5 people diagnosed with breast cancer is HER2 positive, which means that cancer cells may grow and spread faster.
She recalls, “When I was told my disease was HER2 positive, I was afraid because I knew it was such an aggressive form. Fortunately, I could participate in a clinical trial and I decided to take each day and be hopeful.”
Looking back, she would have liked to better understand her breast cancer earlier in diagnosis, including her specific subtype, tumor size, and stage, as well as recognize the very strong possibility it could metastasize.
It’s with this in mind that Linda encourages other patients to advocate for themselves, to ask the questions they have and to seek support from others living with metastatic breast cancer. “It’s okay to take a deep breath,” she shares. “It can be a really scary time, but you deserve to take this moment and be kind to yourself. We have a strong community, which has helped me realize that I’m not alone and that asking questions is okay.”
Even on dark days, Linda is focused on being optimistic.
“I don’t dwell on it,” she says. “Over the years, I have learned ways to cope with the process and know where to find support.”
One of her support sources is Beyond Pink, sponsored by AstraZeneca. That’s where she’s been sharing her MBC story with other patients. “My wish is that my story uplifts or encourages someone living with this disease.”
She wants to educate people about the disease and help them understand the importance of knowledge, which she hopes could one day make MBC a chronic illness instead of a terminal condition.
Learn more about metastatic breast cancer and get support by visiting LifeBeyondPink.com.