This post was written by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.
Sherry Bishop and Sharon Foster of St. John’s, Newfoundland have both been living with metastatic breast cancer for seven years. Metastatic breast cancer – also called Stage 4 or advanced breast cancer – is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs, liver, bones, or brain. About 30 percent of women who are first diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will develop metastatic breast cancer, which is treatable although incurable.
Prior to meeting, Sherry and Sharon both experienced the isolation and fear that comes with this diagnosis. Despite being welcomed and loved by the breast cancer support group they had both been attending, the reality of the words “terminal” and “incurable” was not something that the others had experienced.
A place for sharing, hoping and empowering
Since meeting six years ago, the two women have motivated, inspired, and supported each other. After realizing the empowering, uplifting impact that sharing the experience with another person who “gets it” brings, they felt compelled to tell others about how this kind of support benefited them.
This led to the start of their metastatic peer support group “Sharing, Hoping, Empowering” or “S.H.E.” This group offers a safe place for people with metastatic breast cancer to share their deepest concerns, anxieties, experiences and hopes, without fear of diminishing the hopes of the newly diagnosed.
Willow Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support—which merged with the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation (CBCF) earlier this year—was instrumental in helping them bring their idea for a support group to reality by providing them with facilitator training, resources and guidance.
Sherry and Sharon are grateful to CBCF for their continued commitment to supporting women with metastatic breast cancer across Canada.
A need for increased awareness
Both women feel there is a lack of awareness regarding metastatic breast cancer within the general population and even in the breast cancer community itself. They believe awareness is a crucial first step in the development of treatments, programs, services and research which are desperately needed for this incurable disease.
“We need to shine a light on this disease so we can get the research needed to extend the lives of those living with metastatic breast cancer,” says Sherry. “Those of us living with metastatic breast cancer need to know that we matter. We need to have hope, and that hope comes in the form of research and support for finding a cure for this disease,” Sharon adds.
CBCF’s commitment to helping Canadians affected by metastatic breast cancer
CBCF is committed to increasing funding for metastatic breast cancer research and ensuring that no one has to face this disease alone. Women living with metastatic breast cancer face a range of physical, practical, and emotional challenges that can greatly impact their quality of life. We recognize these unique challenges, and we are here to help women and their loved ones cope and live well with metastatic breast cancer.
CBCF’s team of support specialists provide support and credible information to Canadians affected by any type of breast cancer. All members of our team have had a diagnosis of breast cancer and have undergone an extensive training program to offer compassionate support and credible information—via phone (1-888-778-3100), or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer is a CBCF publication designed to help women understand their diagnosis and treatment options, advocate for themselves, and care for their emotional well-being while living with a metastatic diagnosis. Information specific to metastatic breast cancer is also available on our website.
To help women like Sherry and Sharon offer peer support in their community, CBCF also offers a Volunteer Training program. This program provides free training and ongoing support to volunteers seeking to start and sustain community-based peer support groups for women with breast cancer. It is through this and all of our work at CBCF that we are working to support women living with breast cancer.
To learn more about CBCF’s support and information programs, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page.