A: There are many difficult emotions that you may feel upon being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, including fear, anxiety, anger and guilt. The first thing to realize is that your reaction is normal, and it’s OK to feel extremely upset.
The second thing to know is that, although it may feel like an immediate death sentence, a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer does not mean you will die tomorrow. It does mean you will have to undergo treatment for the disease for much for the rest of your life. But thanks to treatment advances being made all the time, many women with metastatic breast cancer are able to live for months and even years with a good quality of life.
It is very important for you, once you get over the initial shock and distress of diagnosis, to find the support and information resources that will help you live your life to the fullest. These may include family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, religious or lay counselors, therapists, medical professionals, support groups, hotlines, websites and more.
To get started, you may want to call the toll-free our Helpline at (888) 753-LBBC (5222), which is staffed by trained volunteers affected by breast cancer, and where you can be connected with women in similar circumstances.
A: Telling family members – especially children – about a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis is one of the first things many women worry about. The most important thing to remember is that children can sense if you’re distressed and hiding something from them. It’s extremely important to discuss the situation honestly with them, let them know what you’re going through, and how they can help. It’s also important to reassure them that they did not do anything to cause the cancer and that they will always have someone to take care of them.
Here are some resources to help you find the best way to tell your children about your diagnosis:
- American Cancer Society's Helping Children When a Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing with Diagnosis and Helping Children When A Family Member Has Cancer: Dealing With A Parent's Terminal Illness
- The Mothers’ Living Stories Project list of resources specifically for parents living with cancer
- KidsKonnected.org -- an organization that provides support and information for children who have a parent with cancer
A: After being diagnosed with a serious illness, it’s normal to feel like you’ve entered another world that no one else knows or understands. But you are not alone in that world. Tens of thousands of women are living in the United States and around the world with metastatic breast cancer. And thanks to recent advances in research and treatment, they are living longer and with a better quality of life than ever before.
To relieve feelings of isolation, consider joining a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer at a hospital, cancer treatment or wellness center. If a group for women with advanced disease is not available, you may find going to a general cancer support group helpful.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer has many resources for you. Consider visiting our web page focusing on stage IV breast cancer, or watching videos or reading stories about women coping with metastatic disease. You may also find support through online listservs or virtual support groups. Our Helpline at (888) 753-LBBC (5222) can connect you with women in similar circumstances. The Helpline is staffed by trained volunteers affected by breast cancer.
Here are some other resources for information and support:
- Advanced Breast Cancer Community
- American Cancer Society: (800) 227-2345
- Breast Cancer Network of Strength: (800) 221-2141
- Cancer Support Community: (888) 793-9355
- Young Survival Coalition: (877) 972-1011
All FAQs reviewed by Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA