My name is Jeanne Cooper and I am living with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. In February 2009, I was 34 years old; I felt a lump in my breast and I went to my doctor who immediately sent me for a mammogram. Within a few hours that day, I was told that I had breast cancer. The next several weeks were a blur with finding a surgeon, going through biopsies, scans, and other tests. I had no family history of breast cancer and was very confused as to why this was happening. I was told that I had to have a complete mastectomy as the cancer was invasive to my entire breast. In March, I had surgery; in April, I had a port put in. In May, I started my eight treatments of chemotherapy. This was a very emotional time for me. I did not only lose my breast but my hair as well. I had to explain to my 4- and 7-year old boys why I didn’t have any hair. By November 2009, I was able to have reconstruction and life started to feel a little normal again. In February 2014, I was so excited and relieved to celebrate my fifth year being cancer-free.
My family welcomed a new puppy and I spent time teaching her how to walk without her pulling on the leash. In March 2014, I was experiencing a lot of back pain. I had a follow-up visit to my oncologist and I mentioned that my back had been hurting for a few weeks. He sent me for an X-Ray and bone scan. On April 4, 2014, I was told that my cancer came back and was now in my bones (several areas of my spine, ribs, sacrum, and skull); it’s called Metastatic Breast Cancer. It was another devastating day for me. I had never heard of MBC and started to research it.
Some important facts about MBC:
- It is cancer that has spread outside the breast to other organs such as your bones, liver, lungs, or brain.
- An estimated 155,000 Americans are currently living with MBC (also called Stage IV Breast Cancer).
- MBC accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually.
- People who are living with it are in treatment for the rest of their lives. It is treatable, but there is no cure.
- Only 7% of all breast cancer funding is spent on Stage IV.
My world was turned upside down again. I had to have surgery to remove my ovaries and started going through treatments again. The treatments that I was on would last about 18 months until the cancer would get wise and spread, and then my oncologist would change my medicine. As of April 4, 2019, I had been living with MBC for five years and I am very grateful that I am still here. It truly is a roller coaster ride, with side effects from treatments, getting scans every four months, and hoping that the cancer did not spread to any organs or any more bones.
In the beginning of 2019, I saw a flyer in my doctor’s office for the LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program at the YMCA. I inquired about it and started taking classes in March. I found the program to be very helpful in strengthening my body and meeting other people living with cancer. The instructors taught body strength exercises, balance, flexibility, and so much more. I gained so much value out of the 12-week program that this August I became a volunteer instructor. This is a wonderful program and I am grateful for the opportunity.