"It's time to understand that this disease is all-inclusive and start reaching everyone."
Since being diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer in 2013, my life has changed not only physically, but mentally. MBC has affected my lumbar spine, so there are times when I am sore from the simplest tasks, like riding in the car or sitting too long on soft surfaces. From different bouts with radiation and medications, my taste buds have changed, so eating certain foods or even drinking water can upset my stomach.
In these annoying times, I get frustrated or aggravated because I just want to be a normal 35 year old woman. I want to run, hike, jump, or even walk without having to stay in bed for 2-3 days afterwards. When I have those feelings, I tell myself that I am still here, breathing, smiling, laughing and loving those who matter most and therefore, I am blessed. I have gifts that money cannot buy and I will not waste my life moping about this chapter in my life. I am going to continue to pull myself up by my bootstraps, live my dreams and do all the things I want to do.
My time is too precious to waste on things that do not serve my purpose. Listening to negativity, carrying everyone else’s trash (stress, problems, etc.) or tolling over this diagnosis is a huge NO. NO. My Motto: Do what you have to do, then what you want to do and forget the rest. I am determined to live my life and enjoy my handsome, hilarious husband and my 3 beautifully wild children. I laugh loudly, smile often and look absolutely fabulous while doing it.
I understand that everyone does not feel the same way I do about life and those are the people I want to reach. If you are a caregiver, pull them out of that bed. Even if you have to put them in a wheelchair, take your patient outside and watch the sunset, smell those beautiful flowers or marvel at the color of the fall leaves. If they just can not get out of bed, snatch back those curtains and let the sun shine on their face; WILL that person to live. Everyday you wake up is a precious gift from God, get up and do something with it.
To be able to do one thing that makes you feel normal again is a lifesaver.
Everyone wants a cure to stamp out this disease, but until this happens, the MBC community needs more hope. This may not be the answer that someone is looking for, but this is the answer I am giving. Everyone is talking about research, awareness, and funding, but no one is speaking about how to help individuals with MBC live a quality life. The sad truth is, progress in the most important areas are very slow, so what are MBC patients who are in pain, suffering and losing their will to fight on a daily basis, to do while they wait?
There needs to be counselors who are going through MBC for patients, because they understand the struggle and can be better support. There needs to be more exercise programs (Yoga, pilates,etc), that cater to MBC patients because some of us can not bend, reach, or jump around like we use to. This may not seem very important, but when you are constantly being told what you can’t do by your doctors, and you live with your limitations daily, you feel like you have lost everything. To be able to do one thing that makes you feel normal again is a lifesaver; believe me, I know.
Raising awareness to inspire action can be done by having real people of all colors represent the campaigns. Stop posting all of these photos, brochures and commercials with white women who have lost their hair. We do not all look like that and this does not appeal to other communities, because they can not relate to that person.
I am a black woman that wears a cute, short, haircut. I am active with my children and husband. I earned my college degree while fighting this disease, started a business and I am currently working on my graduate degree. Having people like this share their story will raise awareness. Other women will say, “Wow, she looks just like me, doing the very thing I am doing, and this happened to her, so maybe I need to go get checked out or do a self-breast exam.” If anything, it helps pass the message of why Metastatic Breast Cancer awareness is important, provokes questions, and therefore dialogue about the disease.
Another big help would be to reach out to the less-fortunate communities and share this information with them. Many of them do not know anything about doing a self-breast exam and some of these people can not even afford to get a mammogram, and by the time they do find out anything, it has spread and its too late. It’s time to understand that this disease is all-inclusive and start reaching everyone.