The love of my life, Steve and I were beyond excited to welcome our first child in 2007. Shannon was born with a 50% chance of survival. In 3 days, she passed away in my arms of a heart and diaphragm defect. Our second child passed away 9 months after Shannon. Our beautiful twins, Grace and Lily, were born prematurely spending 2 weeks in the NICU. Finally, my next pregnancy with S.J. lead to complications that placed both of our lives in jeopardy. All of this prompted me to start the project Sweet Peas, a national non-profit for families with critically ill infants. In addition during this difficult time, a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer under the age 40, and urged all of us to check our breasts. It was the first self check that I found a mass in my breasts. Unfortunately, I let it go and never thought much of it.
When my breast started to change, I decided to go to the doctor. At 28 years old with three children under 4, I was diagnosed with Metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread out outside of the breast to organs). The cancer was in my lymph nodes on my ribs, spine, liver and pelvis. I was given a 16% chance to live 5 years. In addition to the cancer, it was determined that I had a Li-Freumeni Syndrome mutation. Statistics showed a 60% chance of developing another type of cancer over my lifetime too.
I cried so much for so long. I felt sorry for everyone that loved me. I underwent treatments, suffered fractured bones,and had a declined quality of life. During this time, I also raised $50,000 for breast cancer research, wrote a blog, went on national tv and prayed for a miracle. In the spring of 2015, I was found to be "NED" No Evidence of Disease. This was not a cure, but gave me hope. Cancer found ways around the drugs, however, cancer cells remained in my breast. During this time, I did not crumble because my hope was in the lord. My faith is what got me through.
No mother should have to explain to her kids why she is losing all of her hair, why she is too sick to play or why she goes to the doctor every week and they go to Grandma's house. It's not just a patient who goes through cancer, it's a family. My son, who is now 6 years old, asked me why I have cancer and when it will be all gone. All I could say to him was "I don't know" because, I don't. The reality is we know that metastatic breast cancer takes the life of virtually every person who has it at some point. For now, I live each and every day for my kids making memories so that one day they can look back and know that no matter how sick Mommy was, she did her best to make sure that they had fun.
A large percentage of the public believes that late stage breast cancer is curable. It is not. Women and men diagnosed with metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer are considered terminal. 30% of early stage breast cancer patients (stage 1, 2 &3) will end up with a cancer that spreads, even well after their 5 year mark. The life expectancy is 2-5 years because the cancer has spread beyond the breasts to other organs. Patients diagnosed with metastatic disease remain in treatment for the rest of their life.
Scientists still do not know why cancer spreads for some patients and not for others. The world is aware of what breast cancer is, but now it's time to take action to save our women. Funding for a cure for breast cancer is less than 7%. Finding out how breast cancer spreads is the key to preventing and curing it. We need to focus on research that will do this. The amount of women that die each year from breast cancer has never changed. Of the 150,000 women living with metastatic disease, over 40,000 of them will die each year, like my friends Lindsay, Adrienne, Maryanne, Christina, Kimmy, Blake, Amy and Roberta. They all passed away within months of being diagnosed and left behind mothers, fathers, friends, husbands, boyfriends and small children. My three children deserve more. They deserve to have a mother for many, many years, not for just a couple more. - Kate