The well trodden path

Cancer Culture Chronicles

Featuring 'Newman' - mascot for The Cancer Culture Chronicles

Today’s post is a piece written in December 2010 by fellow blogger Rachel at The Cancer Culture Chronicles. Rachel is 41 and living her life dealing with metastatic breast cancer, having been first diagnosed seven years ago. The mascot for her blog is her lovely dog, pictured above. I love Rachel’s writing, she is snarky and opinionated; and she’s become my closest cyber friend. You’ll be hearing more about her and our friendship on my blog.

This piece is a powerful reminder that breast cancer ‘survivorship’ is not guaranteed to any of us following diagnosis. And Rachel’s words continue to teach us about the reality of metastatic disease – a subject that is often not mentioned in breast cancer culture. The US based independent group MBCN (Metastatic Breast Cancer Network) has a list of 13 facts everyone should know about metastatic disease. And I think the most shocking one is this:

Treatment for metastatic breast cancer is lifelong and focuses on control and quality of life vs. curative intent. (“Treatable but unbeatable.”)

That’s the truth about metastatic disease. This Thursday, the 13th October 2011, is Metastatic Breast Cancer awareness day, and I’d like to ask you to share this link to the list of facts about MBC.  The MBCN also has a list of suggestions of other things you can do to to increase awareness. 

Here’s Rachel’s post. 

“In many respects, the experience of breast cancer feels like a well-trodden path walked by so many before and so many more, in ever-increasing numbers.  The culture of the breast cancer experience tells us that on this path there are significant milestones, all of which bring their own challenges and emotions, but for which the ultimate prize is a life free and clear of breast cancer.

And so we wearily walk from “Diagnosis”, through “Treatment”, to “Recovery”, to “Survivorship and a Life After Breast Cancer”.  And although getting to each of these milestones seems impossible at times, the culture tells us that if we muster all of our womanly strength and courage to keep bravely fighting, we will get through this and we will have reason to celebrate when breast cancer finally feels like a distant memory. And, fortunately, for many, this is exactly how the experience plays out. Continue reading

The ‘M’ word

breast cancer survivor

The triumphal image of breast cancer survivorship - not metastatic cancer

Breast cancer culture has become symbolised by images of women wearing pink who are celebrating their survivorship. Well, I don’t mind anyone celebrating something, I don’t even mind wearing pink. But this image, that is so strong, gives the impression that breast cancer is curable, that there is an end to it, that you can joyfully be who you were before. And some women can. Some women can’t. Lives are so changed by cancer, by treatments, by surgery, by multiple surgeries, by depression, by loss, by fertility issues… and on and on the list goes. And because of the fickle nature of breast cancer there is always the possibility of recurrence. Always.

This coming Thursday, the 13th of October, it’s Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness day. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the original site of the breast. It is currently incurable. It is also referred to as Stage IV breast cancer. There is no Stage V. Continue reading