Yesterday, my friend, Sheryl, passed away from metastatic breast cancer. She was married and had two children. Her youngest was eight years old.
In and out of the hospital became the norm for my friend and her family. Even though my friend looked gaunt, most days she wore makeup including eyeliner and donned a hat. She did her best to maintain a positive attitude and to smile. She was keenly aware that her eight year old was absorbing her mother’s breast cancer journey.
Most people with metastatic breast cancer live a shorter life span. Eventually the disease catches up with you, takes over and sucks the life right out of you. Shockingly, a very small percentage (estimated at less than 5%) is spent on studying the process of metastasis and why and how cancer spreads, even though metastasis is what causes breast cancer to become a deadly disease. The big question becomes why are we allocating so little to research this stage of the illness?
Sunday, October 13, marks National Metastatic Breast Cancer Day. Depending on the paradigm you use, some argue that it is about time those with metastatic breast cancer are recognized. I would agree, this is long overdue. On the other hand, are we only going to acknowledge these people one day a year? Is this too little too late?
Our society needs to aware of the plight of those with metastatic breast cancer. Their journey is a turbulent one. Many spend the rest of their life on chemotherapy and will remain bald. A good day is measured by making it to the next day.
There is nothing hopeful nor promising for someone with this diagnosis. Many patients with this stage of the disease have disdain for the color pink and what it represents — hope, promise for a bright future, and becoming cancer free. In my estimation, these are the true breast cancer warriors. For they have valiantly fought the good fight, right up to the bitter end.
My friend’s family believes Sheryl is at peace. One of the last things she mentioned to her family was, “Every time you see a butterfly, know that’s me.” What a fitting remembrance for a lovely soul.
In the world of breast cancer, every day someone is diagnosed and someone dies. If we can bring prevention and cure together, we can eliminate needless suffering. It is a collaborative effort and one that the National Breast Cancer Coalition is working hard to accomplish.
In the interim, let us turn our awareness to those with metastatic breast cancer. Being aware means being involved and supportive.
My prayer for those with metastatic breast cancer includes the following poem:
May the sun bring you energy by day.
May the moon softly restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries.
May the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk gently through the world
and know its beauty all the days of your life.”
- Apache Blessing