Survivor wants more research on stage IV metastatic breast cancer

By: 
Joshua Waddles
Staff Writer

All breast cancer deaths are caused by metastatic disease, according to Jennifer Wiseman, a seven-year cancer survivor.

Wiseman was diagnosed with stage 1, DCIS breast cancer, which means it was in the mammary glands and would not be in any of the lymph nodes.  A lump in the breast is not what causes death, said Wiseman. Breast cancer deaths occur from metastatic breast cancer, when the cancer spreads to other parts of the body. This can occur five, 10, 15 or 20 years after the original diagnosis. Anyone who has had an earlier stage of breast cancer can have a metastatic recurrence, said Wiseman. Some women have had metastatic disease on their initial diagnosis of cancer despite mammograms and early detection.

Despite this, only about five to seven percent of cancer research funds are spent on metastatic disease.

In 2011, Wiseman had a double mastectomy. She said there is a 30 to 40 percent chance that her cancer will come back as stage IV metastatic, which is fatal. The median life expectancy after a stage IV metastatic diagnosis is 33 months. Last October, she lost an aunt to stage IV.

Metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer that spreads to another organ, such as the bones or liver. Even if the cancer is no longer in the breast, the tumor cells will still look and act like breast cancer. About 20 to 30 percent of patients with an early stage of cancer have had their cancer return as metastatic, even if they have been told that their early stage cancer had been cured. Another eight percent of new breast cancer cases are found to be metastatic at their initial stages.

Breast cancer and metastatic breast cancer can affect both men and women. About 40,000 people die of breast cancer each year and that number has remained almost unchanged over the past 20 years, despite advancements in treatment.

She made a lot of friends on social media, many of them had or have stage IV. She said she tries not to let this fear run her life and she may go for days without even thinking about it. When she does think about it, she said, it’s usually because she’s been on social media, seen where a friend has been diagnosed, or when she sees that one of her friends with Stage IV has passed away. When she sees that, it brings her to tears because she knows it could be her. At any time, said Wiseman, it could be her that gets the Stage 4 diagnosis whenever she feels some weird pain and goes to the doctor. She said there is no time span for breast cancer possibly returning.

After her double mastectomy in 2011, when she was 37, she wished she had a support group for women her age or close to it. In 2013, she found a website called YoungSurvival.org for the Young Survival Coalition (YSC). This organization was founded by three women who were diagnosed in their early 30s back in 1998 and who realized there was a need for more support for young survivors. The YSC connects young survivors and provides various resources. Wiseman said she met many lifelong friends and amazing women through YSC.

YSC is also how she met Stori Nagel, who runs a non profit organization called Haus of Volta (HausofVolta.com). Haus of Volta produced a calendar featuring women in various stages of cancer treatment, including those out of treatment and those who have been diagnosed with Stage IV.  Wiseman applied to be featured on the calendar and had her photo shoot in California at the end of May.

She said she’s seen posts from the women and men she’s talked to on Facebook who have had to enter hospice because they can no longer function at home. She said this was when she found www.metavivor.org, an organization providing metastatic breast cancer research funds and support.

She said she’s tired of seeing her friends die, and it hit her hard when her aunt passed away last October, which was the last “National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.” She said she doesn’t want to die and she doesn’t want her children to die, and she said the solution is not in pink ribbons, but research.

Many people across the country take issue with the Susan G Komen organization because of the small percentage of funds raised by fundraisers and pink merchandise that goes to breast cancer research. Susan G Komen “Race for the Cure” (not to be confused with Relay for Life) raises about $100,000. Of that money, $75,000 stays in the local communities for “awareness, education and support” and $25,000 goes to the national headquarters in Dallas. Of that money, the national headquarters only about $4,500 for research. The rest goes to funding more fundraisers and administration costs.

Of the $4,500, only between $180 and $225 goes into Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer research.

The truth about cancer is horrifying: surgeries, mastectomies and lost lives. And while early detection is important, it is no guarantee against Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer, which is why, Wiseman feels, there needs to be much more focus on research on Metastatic Breast Cancer.

With Metavivor.org, 100 percent of all money raised goes to Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer research.

 

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