Community Member Spotlight: Kathleen L'Abbee

Meet Kathleen! She shares her metastatic breast cancer recurrence story.

Yearly monitoring for breast cancer reccurence

How & when were you diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?

Diagnosis in June 2018 with sternum met by a yearly breast MRI. Then following a PET scan found mets on ribs, both ilium (hips), and pelvis.

What type of breast cancer do you have? Was it recurrence or de novo?

Recurrent ER/PR+, HER2-. Did not change from original diagnosis stage 3 in 2010 (left breast tumor 5,5cm had AC & taxol and chemo to reduce tumor size to 2.5cm, lumpectomy and 25 radiation treatments)

Support when newly diagnosed with MBC

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

Facebook pages are designated for people with MBC. You can post happy, sad, and rant & rave all on the same page. You also receive lots of information from ladies in the same situation as yourself although not all women react the same to the same treatment, you get the possibilities of side effects and treatment possibilities available.

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

I see that I am not alone and ABC posts pertaining information. I usually answer to the best of my knowledge and having lived with the diagnosis for 3 1/2 years, I’m just getting the hang of everything and acknowledging my diagnosis.

Advice when newly diagnosed with MBC

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

  1. Do not google prognosis as the information given is outdated and new treatments are coming out every year
  2. Find a nurse practitioner that you can trust to help you with symptoms, pain and mental health - this nurse can refer you to palliative care (not end of life) for all of this i.e.; dealing with pain, fatigue, and psychological help.
  3. Explain to family and friends what your diagnosis means and how they can help you deal with this:
    • Rides to and from the hospital for appointments
    • Help with household chores that you are no longer able to do (windows, spring/fall cleaning, etc).
    • If you have children living with you, ask family to take children the day of treatment (or the day that treatment affects you the most and you are not able to take care of your children) if possible or have someone sleepover to take care of children while you’re recovering (my mom did this at original diagnosis and was a godsend as I didn’t have to worry about them and took time to take care of myself for 1 day, or as many days needed).
    • Emotional support! Keep including you in outings (remind them that you might not attend all of them but fun to know that I have the possibility to go and enjoy a night out (or activity), listen to your fears and emotions along your journey, not necessarily offering advice but an ear than can listen and offer emotional support.
    • Don’t tell us what we should have done to prevent MBC from happening! It happens to 30% of women with recurrence so it’s not your fault! In the same line, don’t offer advice on "my friend's grandmother beat this with such and such treatment or remedy, you should try it." MBC oncologists are specialized in this field
  4. If you’re uncertain you’re getting the right treatment, seek a 2nd opinion. Never hurts to challenge the best of them
  5. Stop beating yourself up and enjoy life while you can but just don’t overdo it! Go to your limits (you’ll learn fast enough what your limits are)

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