Portrait of Mallory Royal

Community Member Spotlight: Mallory Royal

Last updated: May 2022

Meet Mallory, our newest advocate! Mallory joined our team in November 2021. She shares her diagnosis story with us.

How & when were you diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?

There was a voice in the back of my mind saying go to the doctor. I listened to that voice and I pushed for that scan. Sometimes it’s hard to speak up when you can’t quite put your finger on it but you know you don’t feel like yourself. You know yourself better than anyone so I said “I think something is wrong.” My Doctor scheduled a CT scan and a bone scan which led to a PET scan which of course led to a lovely biopsy via mediastinoscopy and bronchoscopy. Two days later the phone rings with the dreaded news, I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer on October 22, 2020. My world stopped spinning and for a brief moment in time, I swore there was no air left on this planet to breathe.

A stage 4 diagnosis

What type of breast cancer do you have? Was it recurrence or de novo?
I immediately started researching and slowly but surely my world started to spin again, my lungs filled with air and I could finally say the words out loud “I have stage IV metastatic breast cancer”. Unfortunately, this is my 3rd cancer diagnosis. In 2012 I had Hodgkin's lymphoma. After undergoing months of chemotherapy and later radiation I was put into remission. I thought I was done, oh what a beautiful word, “done”. I received the stage IV diagnosis as a recurrence from my original stage I breast cancer in 2017. I was 27 at the time and I had a double mastectomy. Because I no longer had breast tissue when I had a recurrence the tumors had traveled to my right lung and mediastinal lymph nodes. My current breast cancer matches my original breast tumor subtype which is hormone-positive ER+/PR+ and HER2-. Now I am in treatment indefinitely but I am thankful that the advancement of science can extend the life of the diagnosed.

Information & support when navigating an MBC diagnosis

What information/support was most helpful for you when you were newly diagnosed?

I found my day-to-day life became much more tolerable once I had a plan in place. The beginning stages of that plan included choosing the best oncologist for me. I needed to know we were both on the same wavelength and willing to think outside of the box when it comes time to make adjustments as we navigate stage IV together. Once I had a solid team in place I confirmed my tumor subtype so I knew what my options were for lines of treatment. Research and stay informed but keep in mind the online world can be a dark place especially when you are already frightened. The statistics can be overwhelming and heart-wrenching. Focus on living with this diagnosis.

What's your favorite part about AdvancedBreastCancer.net? How has online support helped you?

The sense of community provided by everyone online at AdvancedBreastCancer.net is an invaluable resource. The various articles are educational and informative on the website. I love that there is an understanding of the ebb and flow that comes along with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. There are certainly traumatic days and there are beautiful surreal days. We are all learning to face this metastatic monster, head-on, together. If I can answer a question or brighten someone's day, it makes me feel like I am making a small difference in our world even if it’s just a Facebook comment or message. I believe finding online support from others that have already gone through the beginning stages of this nauseating prognosis is absolutely necessary. I call them the pioneers of the metastatic world, they seem to have the best advice. If they don’t know something, I can almost guarantee they will find someone who does. Ask questions, comment, send a message, call, reach out, someone will respond. Be encouraged.

Advice for newly diagnosed MBC patients

What 3 pieces of advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?

I try to give myself these pep talks all of the time, but again, this diagnosis is grueling so we are here moving forward each day.

  1. Remember that this diagnosis comes in waves, learn to swim through them with grace.
  2. Hold on to the things that bring you joy, harness that energy, and let it explode in your days - make them beautiful.
  3. Do not try and figure everything out all at once. Believe me, I tried and it did not go well. Get a plan in place, keep going, and do not look back. There is no right or wrong way to go through cancer, you just have to go.

*Bonus advice: Reach out to any of us connected on AdvancedBreastCancer.net. It is an amazing resource full of information. You are not alone.

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