Telling My Story: A Q&A With Jacqueline Breedlove

Insight Articles
March 17, 2017
By: 
Eric Fitzsimmons, Copy Editor and Content Coordinator

In 2014 Jacqueline Breedlove was retiring from her job as a social workerinfo-icon. She was getting ready to move from her home of more than 30 years in Oakland, California, to Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives now. Then she was diagnosed with metastaticinfo-icon breast cancer in her bones and lungs. Jacqueline, 65, had been through breast cancer and treatment twice before, as a single mother with a full-time job. At the time she did not have much interest in learning or speaking about the disease.

With her stageinfo-icon IV diagnosisinfo-icon, Jacqueline has become more active in her own treatment and in connecting with the breast cancer community. She advocates for funding for more research, and she shares her story, and the stories of other people living with metastatic breast cancer. She found resources through Living Beyond Breast Cancer and now volunteers through LBBC’s Hear My Voice program.

Jacqueline spoke with LBBC copy editor and content coordinator Eric Fitzsimmons about what it means to share her story and hear from others.

Eric

Had you always been open about your experiences with breast cancer?

Jacqueline

I hadn’t shared my story at all, with anyone, other than a sister that lives in another city who also was diagnosed. But in terms of friends or co-workers: No, I did not share my story. I did not want to receive pity from others, which is the experience I had seen for other people, as a retired social worker. People want to empathize with you but there is no way they can, because you can’t have empathy for something you haven’t experienced.

Eric

Why did that change?

Jacqueline

I think it had to do with getting a diagnosis of [metastatic breast cancer], which is a lifelong disease. … This is something I have to live with and it’s something that I saw other women living with and some of those women were much younger than I was.

[I was] inspired to learn more about metastatic breast cancer and to be able to share that with others, because throughout my diagnosis it was not something shared with me. I was really lost in terms of even knowing what metastatic breast cancer was or the possibility that [breast cancer] would come back. Because a lot of people think of breast cancer and they think, you get chemotherapyinfo-icon and you’re done. It’s not coming back. You’re cured. That may or may not be the truth depending on what’s going on within someone’s body. I didn’t get that message the first two times.

Eric

What else changed after the metastatic diagnosis?

Jacqueline

Before I retired, most of my life was minimal exercise and working long hours and gaining weight and not necessarily eating correctly. Once I got my diagnosis I no longer was working a job. And that’s not the situation for everybody, because not everybody is in the situation where they can retire. I needed to do some type of exercise — because I had problems with my lungs when I got my diagnosis — to help expand my lung capacity and to become physically stronger. So I started a regimeninfo-icon of water aerobics, and now I’m a water aerobics instructor. That was a big change for me. It doesn’t feel like exercise at all; it feels like therapyinfo-icon for my body now.

Eric

What do you hope people will take away from your story?

Jacqueline

That you become educated. Even though it’s called metastatic breast cancer, there are so many different types of cancer that fall in that category, like triple-negative and HER2-positive [and hormone receptorinfo-icon-positive]. [It’s helpful] being able to [learn about] which cancer applies to your situation, to see the new technologies [and how those subtypes] are being addressed.

[Also that you connect] with other women who may be using the same type of therapy that you’re using. [I was] able to connect with women over the internet and provide support for them, as well as [find some] for myself. Even though I don’t see these women in person, we know when someone’s going through treatment or when someone’s going to advocate or [go to] some type of march, or whatever kind of activity they’re going to participate in so others know that there needs to be more funding for metastatic breast cancer.

Always try to be happy, because life is too short to be any other way. ... Happiness is in your heart and it’s not based on anybody else.

Eric

Is there anything else you wanted to share?

Jacqueline

Always try to be happy, because life is too short to be any other way. ... Happiness is in your heart and it’s not based on anybody else.   

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