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The Unwelcome Truth about Metastatic Cancer

Posted 3/4/2015

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  This puts me in mind of Al Gore's film The Unpleasant Truth. As unwelcome as the truth about global warming, so is the reality about metastatic cancer. The truth about metastatic/advanced/Stage IV disease is that it is uncurable. Yes, there are occasional miracle reports about someone who is apparently cured of metastatic disease. There are a few kinds of cancer (e.g. testicular) where that is more likely, but the fact remains that, in almost all cases, cancer that has spread beyond the original or primary site is treatable, but not curable.

  It is also true to no one likes to be reminded of this; no one likes to talk about it. Most certainly, none of the feel good fund-raising cancer organizations want to be asked about this. It is much simpler and has much broader appeal to talk about people who are diagnosed, treated, and do well. As one of my oncologist friends likes to say: "America: the country where no one ever dies."

  This is an introduction to this stunning essay from the blog, Metavivor.  With no further introduction, I pass this along with the strong hope that you will read it.

Speaking Out On Metastatic Breast Cancer
BY Dian "CJ" Corneliussen-James

“Cancer is not a death sentence.” I did a double-take. At the same time, my friend nudged me ... hard. There was outrage on her face. It was early spring 2008. The words had been spoken by one of the presenters at a breast cancer conference we were attending. I looked at the panel of experts ... mostly oncologists. No one looked surprised or embarrassed or uncomfortable. Pre-arranged survivor speakers were asked to come forward and speak. Each one ended her short talk with statements such as "I survived because I was vigilant" ... "because I had courage" ... "because I had the will to live". The cheering began and grew louder as the master of ceremonies went on to extol the fact that in today's world breast cancer was openly spoken of everywhere. She announced that there were a whopping 2.5 million survivors and asked all of them to stand.

As they cheered each other on, my friends and I remained seated, looking at each other dumbstruck. . We were certainly “vigilant”, our "courage" was beyond compare and our "will to live" was absolute, but we did not consider ourselves "survivors”. As the evening progressed, we found nothing relevant to our situation … not a speaker, not a reference, not a handout ... nothing. During the Q and A I waited for an inroad to bring up MBC. It came when a woman mentioned that her sister claimed she had breast cancer in her bones; she asked what her sister meant by that. The moderator launched into a talk about breast cancer types, and ended her response without having ever addressing the question or mentioning metastatic disease. I raised my hand.

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  • Patricia Hogan said:
    3/4/2015 11:11 AM

    It is SO appalling to read that only 2% of research funding goes to MBC studies.It would be helpful if a comprehensive list could be compiled and publicized of what percentage of a nonprofit group's funding goes toward MBC research. This could would be a valuable guide to giving. (Perhaps this is already being done and I am just unaware of it).