Changing the Metastatic Breast Cancer Conversation

Today’s guest blog comes from Jennifer Kraemer-Smith, a mother who is living with metastatic breast cancer and co-creator of The Cancer Conversation.

For me, October doesn’t just mean pink ribbons for breast cancer. It’s also the month of my daughter’s birthday — the baby I carried while undergoing surgery and treatment for breast cancer. It’s the month I felt blessed my baby survived and thrived. Now, October has breast cancer awareness ribbons, but also the pink ribbons I clip in my little girl’s hair.

Early in pregnancy, a breast lump prompted me to call my obstetrician. I was sent for a sonogram where I could tell by the technician’s face that it wasn’t good. A biopsy confirmed stage one breast cancer. I was 38 years old.

After surgery, I was able to undergo chemotherapy without harming my baby. My daughter was a bright light at the end of that long tunnel. Thankfully, she was born healthy, and over the years, she has grown into a feisty little playmate for her brothers.

More than two years later, the cancer returned in my spine. And this spring, my cancer returned a second time.

People have different ideas about metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Images of someone sickly or very old come to mind. But women my age — and younger — as well as men are vulnerable. This disease shows no prejudice.

Living with cancer requires constant adaptation and an ongoing dialogue with family, friends and doctors. Beginning at diagnosis, you’re piecing out how to move forward. You have questions that are practical or emotional, aside from those that are medical. This is what led my best friend Andrea and me to create The Cancer Conversation. Our combined experiences made us realize the universality of our feelings.

The Cancer Conversation presents topics in digestible bites, using a set of question and answer cards designed to help people living with cancer learn how to live with this new reality. They’re meant to be shared with loved ones and inspire dialogue, especially during a difficult time. In my life, talking and listening to those who mean the most to me about what I’m going through brings us all closer together, and that’s important to me.

I’m hoping that more attention will be given to MBC. Shining a spotlight on it would lead to more conversation, more understanding, more innovation — more for MBC. 

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