It amazes me there are people on this planet who don't think about breast cancer every waking moment, or at the very least, once a day. It's inconceivable to me that such a life exists. I seem to be surrounded by it constantly. Even if I wanted to, there's no getting away from it.
So, it came as no surprise to see The Huffington Post piece by Fran Visco, President of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, state breast cancer kills someone in this country every 14 minutes. I personally know each and every one of them.
Well, it feels like that sometimes.
I often like to think I've had my share; mother, aunt, sister-in-law's mom, the young wife of a good friend -- all gone. All died after their cancer metastasized. How many people do I need to know before it leaves my life for good? No answer as it reaches out to bloggers and just the other day, an old high school friend of the same sister-in-law, succumbs at the ripe old age of 46.
I'm 47. My mother was 49 when first diagnosed. I feel like I'm walking among land mines and it's harder and harder to step safely, because in spite of my early detection, I don't believe I'm cured. I fear I'll be walking around one day, only to have my whole life blow up in my face. Where's the good in early detection when nearly 25% of early stage breast cancer metastasize and can't be cured? Does awareness matter if the outcome is the same?
See the girl in the puffy blue jacket, 4th from the right? That's me. See the red haired girl next to me? That's Dina. We're about sixteen. When Dina was 34 years old her physician was sure the lump in her breast was a cyst. It couldn't possibly be breast cancer. She was too young and Dina believed that. Why wouldn't she? In 1998, breast cancer awareness wasn't the groundswell it is today and every product on the market had yet to turn pink.
When her lump was still there 10 months later, the same physician told Dina to alert her gynecologist during her annual exam. Which she did...two months later.
One year after initially telling her physician about a lump in her breast, Dina was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. The cancer had metastasized to her lungs, liver and bones. She didn't stand a chance.
The girl next to me in that photo, holding my hand, died of Metastatic breast cancer. We had no way of knowing our fate on that day. I'd learn all about breast cancer, up close and personal, three years later when my mother found her lump, but Dina wouldn't learn for nearly twenty years when her own lump was finally biopsied.
Ironic, really. Two lives, starting on the same path, only to split off in very different directions. At 19 years old, breast cancer became a huge part of my life and I've lived my years thinking about it, watching it's effect on loved ones, almost waiting for it to touch me. I knew its power because I had witnessed it first hand, several times over, but Dina didn't.
Would the outcome differ if Dina had known more? Who can say? Sometimes knowing...isn't enough. Many times, in fact, as Stage I inexplicably morphs into Stage IV. Awareness may have helped Dina for a short time, but it wouldn't save her from Metastatic breast cancer and MBC isn't curable.
It is my hope Metastatic Breast Cancer becomes a household term the way "Awareness" has. Maybe if MBC can find a foothold in the minds of those that can do something. Anything...talk about it, blog about it, raise funds for research on par with education and awareness campaigns...
Then maybe we won't need a Stage IV, or any Stages. Maybe people will stop dying every 14 minutes and maybe future generations can grow up wondering what all the fuss was about.