A diagnosis of advanced breast cancer can trigger many different emotions: grief, fear, anger, even betrayal. At first, it may seem like the end: the end of happiness, the end of life, the end of the world. In reality, it’s only the beginning. For better or for worse, your diagnosis is going to take you on a journey of learning and self-discovery.   

“I knew in my heart my cancer was back.”

Meet Lori Marx-Rubiner. Lori is a wife, a mother, and a breast cancer survivor. Nine years after her initial diagnosis, she learned less than two years ago that her cancer was back – and spreading. Now in her third treatment, she shares the following: 

“Life with [metastatic breast cancer] moves from treatment to treatment as one stops working and another (usually harsher) begins. After 18 months on one therapy, I had planned a number of years on the second one. It took only three months, however, for those pesky tumor markers to show me otherwise. Treatment number three started two weeks ago, too soon to know if it’s working. I fear this is the last one before the kind of chemo that makes you sick, gray and bald. I’m not ready to be ‘sick.’ I have much to do, life to live, love to share.”

“I’m too stubborn to die.”

Tami Boehmer was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. A survivor by nature, she fought hard and met her five-year anniversary of being cancer-free with optimism. Just a few months later though, she was told that her cancer was back in her liver and lymph nodes. That doctor told her that, sooner or later, she was going to die from breast cancer. 

Tami doesn’t like being told what to do. She did her homework, researched and sought out doctors and treatments that she felt were a good fit: 

“I believe no one has as big of an investment in keeping me alive and well than me. I've learned a lot about breast cancer and my body throughout my journey. I’m constantly researching different treatments, seeking second and third opinions, and networking with other survivors. I make sure to have both a consulting, out-of-town oncologist and a local oncologist and come to my visits with lists of questions and ideas. When I make decisions about treatments, I combine information with the feeling in my gut that tells me, ‘This is the right one.’”

“Cancer is something you live with, not die from.”

Kathryn Becker was 32 years old, had just moved out of state, and was at a routine checkup when the doctor found a lump. After a string of mammograms and then a biopsy, she learned she had breast cancer. Shock and denial led to anger, as she thought, “I’m too young for this!” and, “This isn’t happening!” 

Kathryn’s first recurrence showed its face in 2004, and her cancer has since spread to her sternum, ribs, lungs, liver, and brain. But don’t think of her as “poor Kathryn.” She’s very active in breast cancer advocacy, and even completed the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure” during chemotherapy treatment: 

“I am very positive. I do have my moment—but overall, I am very positive. I believe with all the breakthroughs in treatments that there will be a treatment that will put me in NED (no evidence of disease). I’m holding onto that hope—whenever I have a hiccup or a new growth in my cancer, I know my team of docs will know how to handle it and I will have options. I like being part of making treatment decisions—they can be overwhelming and I do get second opinions quite a bit for my peace of mind, but overall—I am positive and I always have hope. Cancer is something you live with, not die from. I feel the more people are aware and empowered with knowledge, the more our survivor numbers will continue to grow.”

If you would like more information about these inspiring women—or would like to follow their progress—you can find them at the following:

Lori Marx-Rubiner blogs at http://regrounding.wordpress.com/

Tami Boehmer has a book and a blog at http://www.tamiboehmer.com/, and is available for speaking engagements.

Kathryn Becker is involved in a number of organizations. You can read her story in the American Association for Cancer Research Progress Report, and in the Susan G. Komen Chronicles of Hope.