Breast Cancer Awareness Month
13 October 2020
Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day (13th October)
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I’m sure that like me, you will have seen the various campaigns across companies and social media. Did you know that today is the only day that’s specifically for secondary breast cancer? (13th October)
Image from Make 2nds Count
Secondary Breast Cancer, also known as metastatic, advanced or stage IV breast cancer, is a cancer that has spread beyond the breast to other parts of the body. It occurs when the initial breast cancer cells (primary breast cancer) spread through the bloodstream or lymphatic system to other parts of the body.
Out of the 55,000 women diagnosed annually with breast cancer, 30% will go on to get a secondary diagnosis. In around 5% of those women, breast cancer will have already spread by the time it’s diagnosed. Secondary Breast Cancer kills 31 women every day and while it is treatable, it isn’t curable. Treatments aim to control and slow down the disease to enable patients to have the best possible quality of life for as long as possible.
Lisa Fleming is the founder of charity Make 2nds Count. We met through another friend as I took over from Lisa as an events manager in my previous work. Lisa was diagnosed ‘de novo’ (this is when her primary & secondary breast cancer were diagnosed at the same time) in May 2017 after she had been to the dr several times after losing feeling in her right arm, experiencing crippling back pain and noticing that one of her stretch marks from her son was looking a bit dodgy. She had to persevere to be seen as was repeatedly told it was nothing to worry about (never dismiss yourself if you know your body well and feel that something is wrong. Your intuition shouldn’t be ignored).
Lisa was given a non-urgent referral and a week later was undergoing tests and biopsies she was told she had breast cancer. 48 hours after that, she was told the breast cancer had made its way to every bone in her body, including her skull.the cancer had eaten through her neck & spine and she spent a month in hospital trying to stabilise her and prevent paralysis. They also needed to ensure that she was strong enough to undergo chemotherapy.
“...I went through an initial 15 rounds of Paclitaxol (IV chemo) alongside Herceptin and Perjeta (HP sauce!), denosumab for the old bones and zoladex (to shut down the power house that was my ovaries). In February of 2018 we were thrown another curve ball when it went to my brain. I still struggle to find the words to explain how that felt. Brain surgery and radiation (cyberknife) took place and I moved onto Capecitabine, an oral chemotherapy which I am still on (touch wood!). Since diagnosis I have undergone 13 surgeries ranging from brain, to spine and breast and I am waiting for number 14 which was postponed due to COVID. I thank my lucky stars every day for my medical team who work so hard to keep me going! Living with stage 4 is tough isn’t it! Regardless of what pictures we post of ourselves looking funky at chemo or leading a relatively ‘normal’ life between treatment, it does change your life in a way that you can’t explain but learning to live with your new normal is something that slowly you do learn to do.
The best advice I think I could give is - Do what is right for you! Life is overwhelming and some days it is hard to even imagine how you are going to get through the day let alone life with an incurable diagnosis. Everyone’s journey is unique and there is no right or wrong so don’t feel pressured to do what appears to be right for someone else.”
As well as being a badass Cancer battler, Lisa founded a charity Make 2nds Count in 2018 (I know, it blows our minds too!) It is a patient and family focused charity based in Edinburgh dedicated to giving hope to women and men living with secondary breast cancer.
Their mission is:
To fund secondary breast cancer research that contributes to advancing an increased quality of life for patients.
To establish a community that supports and educates patients & families affected by secondary breast cancer.
To inform & facilitate access to patient trials.
To increase overall awareness of secondary breast cancer.
Lisa’s cancer is currently ‘stable’ and hopefully her treatments will be able to keep her stable for as long as possible so she can continue to make memories with her husband Euan and lovely son Cameron.
If you would like to know more about Make 2nds Count and the work they do then you can find them here and if you are in a position to make a donation please make a donation here