Changing The Way I Viewed Stage IV: How I Learned I’m Not Alone
Sheila Johnson-Glover is back on the LBBC blog to talk about the Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, how it changed the way she saw her diagnosis and connected her with a community of support. Learn about our Ninth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer, taking place April 11-12, 2015 in Philadelphia.
Motivating, exciting, empowering, community building, love, strength, laughter and unity – these are the words that describe how I felt during and after I attended my first Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer. For me, this conference was a game changer on how I viewed my diagnosis. The event gave me a new hope and a new beginning. I determined then that I would fight and continue to fight and to encourage other’s to attend this conference so they too can make lifelong friendships and get all the updates on research, treatment and support for people living with a stage IV breast cancer diagnosis.
I was diagnosed with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer in December 2009. I had to ask my doctor, “Well how many stages are there?” My doctor responded, “Sheila you have the worst one.” As you can imagine, my heart felt like it had exploded and my whole body went numb. I needed to know more about metastatic breast cancer and meet women like myself who were living with this diagnosis, and learn if they felt the same way I did emotionally and physically. I was a total wreck when I learned I had stage IV breast cancer. I knew nothing about stage IV and I didn’t have anyone I could relate to.
Living Beyond Breast Cancer has been a true blessing in my life. I was introduced to LBBC by my support group, the Young Women’s Breast Cancer Program in St Louis, Missouri, and what a joy it’s been! I soon learned about the amazing conferences LBBC hosted, and I thought attending one would be a great opportunity to meet those who understood the same battle that I faced every day. I wanted to ask other people living with stage IV breast cancer questions like how they deal with side effects and what questions I should ask my oncologist. I would later learn that every cancer treatment plan is different but still, I needed to hear from others who understood what I was going through.
The staff at conference registration made me feel welcomed and loved. I think the most intriguing part of the conference is that the LBBC’s staff, experts and volunteers are able to put together a weekend-long event that meets our personal needs as women with metastatic disease. It’s amazing how many topics LBBC covers, everything from sex and intimacy to the latest updates in metastatic breast cancer research. Through one of LBBC’s conferences, I learned about the medicine T-DM1 (Kadcyla), which had just come out at that time. I was able to go back to my doctor and ask her about it.
The Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer is in its ninth year. I’m so grateful that LBBC realized there was a need for a conference of this type, and continue to hold each year. The conference helps women affected by stage IV disease understand their diagnosis and makes them realize they are not alone.
I have since met so many amazing women of all cultures, races and ages. I have created so many lifelong friendships and we continue to push each other. I was inspired to give back because of the confidence and the drive I saw in LBBC and its programs. I wanted to help more and to share with others what I’ve learned through LBBC’s conferences and other programs. I now volunteer with the Breast Cancer Helpline. I’m also a Young Advocate, working to bring breast cancer awareness to communities all over.
The people I met at the conference became an extension of my family and support group. It’s just another layer of support and love extended throughout the breast cancer community. Support starts first at home and your doctors, but to know that it is extended way beyond – through events like LBBC’s – assures me that we have so many people out there pulling for us.
Get the most up-to-date information and connect with others at our Ninth Annual Conference for Women Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer.