I met with Montague resident, realtor and business owner, Rhonda Brewer last week. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and October 13 was Metastatic Breast Cancer Day.
Rhonda was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer two years ago, and since then has joined the ranks of activists doing the major lifting to raise metastatic breast cancer to a higher priority. Metastatic breast cancer has no cure and kills 116 people every day. Metastatic breast cancer is cancer that has spread from the breast and lymph nodes to the bones, liver, brain, and/or lungs. Once diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, remission is not possible, and treatment is continuous. The life expectancy for metastatic breast cancer patients is three to five years and many get the diagnosis before they are fifty years old.
Breast cancer is the number one cause of death for women under the age of 50. One in eight women will develop breast cancer, the second leading cause of death for women in the U.S. Very little, about two to five percent of funds raised for breast cancer, goes to research on metastatic breast cancer.
Understandably, Rhonda and others with metastatic breast cancer are not always fans of the “Pinktober” paraphernalia. In fact, it can be off-putting to many of them, as they know they will be in treatment the rest of their lives. They are dealing with a terminal illness, symptoms of the disease, medication side effects, emotional issues, financial strain and regular life stressors. The way Pinktober is sometimes promoted can cast a “playful” pink demeanor over this disease.
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But there is some good news. Organizations such as Komen, which traditionally have provided little funds to research (19% in 2017/2018) are now agreeing to make it a higher priority, as of this month. And there are several organizations that only support research for metastatic breast cancer, such as Metavivor, which donates 100% to metastatic breast cancer research. Many White Lake area folks are familiar with Lara Plewka MacGregor, who was diagnosed with breast cancer at 30 and metastatic breast cancer seven years later. She started an initiative, Hope Scarves, to provide colorful scarves and support to women going through cancer. Hope Scarves has a separate fund for metastatic research. These donations are matched 1:1 by a private donor, with all monies going to research.
Another important step forward is the HR 2178 Metastatic Breast Cancer Access to Care Act Bill at the Congressional level. This bill would make it faster and easier for those with metastatic breast cancer to get disability and Medicare. Please reach out to your representative about supporting this bill that would allow these women and men to skip typical waiting periods they just don’t have time for.
So far, most of the leg work for metastatic breast cancer are the people living with this disease. It is well past time for us to step up and help.