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Reclaiming My Life after Metastatic Breast Cancer

by Jean Rymon

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The first thing my oncologist stressed to me after I was diagnosed with breast cancer was the importance of my attitude and support network. To this day, I continue to live by that advice.

After my diagnosis, I had surgery and chemotherapy. I appeared to be cancer-free, but cancer was never far from my mind and I knew it could recur. Nine years later, it did.

When my oncologist diagnosed me with metastatic breast cancer, I committed myself to all of the treatments she recommended. The cancer slowed, but it continued to spread. My oncologist suggested I enter a clinical trial. Less than a year later, I was enrolled and appeared to be doing better.

Now here I am, a 16-year survivor. Of course, my journey with this disease has had its ups and downs, but I never allow myself to feel sad, angry, or afraid for very long. I always remember what my oncologist said to me about the importance of a positive attitude. And I am fortunate to have a strong support network.

You don’t often see stories about women living well with metastatic breast cancer. To most people, metastatic disease is all doom and gloom – if you get that diagnosis, you might as well start preparing your will and making those end-of-life decisions. There is a great need for examples of women with this disease who are not only surviving, but thriving. I do my part in my corner of the world, and there are many other women like me who have carried on, still active, still living their lives in the face of metastatic cancer.

There are limitations to what I can do each day, but cancer doesn’t stop me from enjoying life. Living with metastatic breast cancer is like living with diabetes or any other chronic disease. Whether good or bad, each day is an important opportunity to spend time with my family, to do things I love, and to help others understand that life can be fulfilling even with metastatic cancer.

Today, we face breast cancer armed with different therapies. But just as important as treatment, we need to stay positive and lean on our support network. It is essential that women everywhere understand this simple message: even though you have metastatic breast cancer, you still own your life.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Bristol-Myers Squibb contributed to the development of this article.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, March/April 2009.