This October, the Breast Cancer Resource Center has once again paired up with KEYE-TV and Randalls for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Our aim is to shine light on some of the marginalized aspects of breast cancer – be it the struggles of life after treatment, what it means to live with Stage IV breast cancer, and the new frontier of breast cancer research and treatment options. Our stories will be released via our blog every Tuesday and Thursday in October, and will air subsequently on KEYE-TV at 6am and 6:15pm on Tuesdays, and on their partner station, Telemundo, at 5pm on Thursdays. Help us educate this month by sharing our stories with your friends and family. If one of our stories made an impact on you or someone you know, we want to know! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
By: Holley Kitchen, BCRC client
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer on August 1, 2012. I was 39 years old. I went through treatment, underwent a double mastectomy, did everything I was told to do, and had settled into “life after breast cancer”. One year later, my oncologist told me the breast cancer had moved into my bones. I sat there, stunned… confused… horrified.
The doctor was saying, “metastatic breast cancer”. I didn’t know what “metastatic” meant. I didn’t understand how I could still have breast cancer when I no longer had any breasts. And the most incomprehensible aspect of the conversation was the word “terminal”. It was a double punch in the gut. Not only was I being told the cancer had come back – I was being told it was terminal. I had a terminal disease that I never even knew existed.
I knew right away – the day I was diagnosed – I had to do something. I wasn’t sure what, but I was certain it was not okay that I never knew this could happen. It wasn’t okay for me. It wasn’t okay for my family. It wasn’t okay for any other woman out there who would find herself hearing about metastatic breast cancer – for the first time – because she was being diagnosed with it.
I’m very close to God and during my prayer time, the Lord showed me the format for the video I created about metastatic disease. I posted the video on my Facebook wall in early June. Since then the video has received over 40 million views and I have had people in over 20 countries contact me. Some are saying, “Thank you for sharing what I feel.” Some have said, “WOW, this is what my aunt or grandmother died from and I never knew”. Another said, “I am 3 years away from my first battle with breast cancer, do you think I need a checkup?” And most recently – the most touching one I have read – said, “Two weeks after I saw your video I was diagnosed metastatic – and without your video- I would have never known what this was”.
I proudly provide information and support to others because I know how important both are. I’m lucky to get this kind of support from the Breast Cancer Resource Center. BCRC is unique in the fact that they help those of us who are in the trenches. They deal with the NOW. They have provided me with a patient navigator who never gave up on me. She was kind and gracious even when I would brush her off because I thought I didn’t need support or help.
BCRC has provided two support networks for younger women living with breast cancer. The first is the Pink Ribbon Cowgirls. The other members of this group make me feel like I have an army behind me to cheer me on, and to pick me up when I fall. The second is a group specifically for young women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, called the Lotus Forum or L4. My L4 ladies are MY LIFELINE. There are no words to explain how comforting it is to me that there is a group of ladies I don’t have to “explain” things to…THEY JUST GET ME! They make me realize my feelings are normal because they have or have had the same feelings I do.
I’d also like to share some insight on being called a “survivor”. I don’t identify with that term. The word “survivor” is for people who have “beaten cancer”. I will never beat cancer. As long as I am on this earth, it will always be with me. I call myself a “lifer” because I will never be cancer free. My treatment will continue for the rest of my life. It will never, ever, ever end. People don’t like to talk about it because it’s pretty scary. I understand that. But not talking about it doesn’t change the fact that metastatic breast cancer kills 40,000 women every year, and that 30% of women who beat early stage breast cancer will be re-diagnosed metastatic.
As I said in my video, my mission isn’t to shame anyone. I want to educate everyone about the basic facts of metastatic breast cancer. I want to remind people that for some of us, breast cancer isn’t about how old we are, how hard we fight, or the individual choices we did or didn’t make. Sometime it’s more complicated – and more frightening – than a pretty pink ribbon might suggest.
Consider making a donation to BCRC this October and give the gift that makes a real difference for the women in Central Texas facing breast cancer right NOW. Visit bcrc.org to learn more about how we can help, or click here if you wish to give back today.