Pam shares her story
Practical and pragmatic about her treatment—and sometimes private about her disease—Pam loves to connect with caring friends and a support group of other people living with MBC. She’s even learned to lean on them to help feel more understood and in control.
After a short pity party, I threw myself into learning as much as I could. I read books, scoured the internet, and found conferences to attend. I became an advocate for my own health.— Pam
Even though I’d never eaten right, exercised, or gotten enough sleep, I was almost never sick.
Then, several years ago, I found a lump in my breast.
Right away, I got a diagnostic mammogram and an ultrasound. When my healthcare team asked me who my doctor was, I told them I was “so healthy” that I hadn’t seen a doctor in years.
That same day, I saw a surgeon and then, soon after, had a biopsy. They told me I had triple-negative breast cancer and would need to have chemo, a mastectomy on one breast, and radiation.
It was a shock, and it was really frightening. But, I followed the treatment path that they laid out for me, and that was that.
Less than 2 years later, a routine blood test showed that I had elevated liver enzymes, and I had to get a liver biopsy. Follow-up tests indicated liver tumors, and at first I thought it might be liver cancer.
I was wrong, and later the oncologist confirmed that it was metastatic breast cancer. Being very practical, I asked for the survival statistics for this particular type of cancer—and learned that it’s 2 years.
After a short pity party, I threw myself into learning as much as I could. I read books, scoured the internet, and found conferences to attend. I became an advocate for my own health.
I started by getting a second opinion, and I’ve also had two other consultations with top specialists involved with research facilities. I’ve even looked into clinical trials, but none have been “right” for me.
Now I am on my fourth line of treatment and have tried several oral and IV treatments. However, my quality of life today is great, and I have a purposeful life. I work full-time and, so far, pretty much lead the same life I had pre-MBC—except for having to constantly fit in oncology appointments, treatments, and tests.
I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t share my health status or information about my treatment with my friends and family, except for my husband and daughter, of course. It’s my decision to keep it to myself. Although they’re well-meaning, I feel like they all got too involved in it in the past, and I just didn’t want to deal with that.
However, I’m very, very lucky that I have so many friends…a big network of them, all girls…from all different times in my life and places I’ve lived. I have a core group of lifelong friends from childhood, even kindergarten, who are a wonderful local support team.
We call ourselves “the Gargoyles” and get together frequently for adventures, movies, and dinners. If ever I would ask one of the Gargoyles to do anything for me, it’s comforting to know they’d be there in a minute. With my friends, I continue to do the same things I would usually do with them, and it is a welcome diversion from the healthcare issues I deal with on an ongoing basis.
Support is everything when you have MBC. I can deal with the physical side effects; even losing all of my hair 3 times was not a big deal. But the emotional part is very hard.
You can feel really isolated when you have MBC. For me, I’m very independent, and I happily spend a lot of time alone. However, at this time in my life, I’m thankful I found a fantastic local support group called METAfriends which meets twice a month. The women there are my “tribe.” I call them my “META Babes.”
To talk about my cancer, I didn’t want to turn to friends who do not have MBC and wouldn’t “get it.” My life felt out of control with this disease, and I needed to get better, more targeted support. I definitely have that with my METAfriends. It’s a structured support group run by a psychologist. It allows me to feel safe in sharing what I’m going though—my treatments, any side effects, and all the emotional stuff I’m dealing with. The women keep in touch regularly outside of the meetings through emails, Facebook, conferences, and sometimes social activities.
I truly couldn’t have made it without their support.
If I had to give advice to others living with MBC, it’s to be your own advocate and be positive. And, outside of support from family and friends, find an MBC support group of some type, either in-person or online.
Every single day it’s important to me to just enjoy my quality of life (without dwelling on the unknown quantity of life)—and I am!
Need someone to talk to?
Cancer Support Helpline: 1-888-793-9355
CancerCare’s Hopeline: 1-800-813-HOPE (4673)
Living Beyond Breast Cancer (LBBC) Breast Cancer Helpline: 1-888-753-5222
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