Metastatic Breast Cancer Has Taken a Physical Toll on Me. But I’ve Learned to Adapt.

Kirby Lewis | Oct 08, 2021 | Stories

I have a wonderful ‘do – no hair, and no eyebrows. I have all the aches and the pains, much of it is a result of the chemotherapy, the swelling and the lymphedema. I am a male, but these things occur in me just like they do in many women with breast cancer.

Breast cancer isn’t a female’s disease. It is a disease that affects both men and women, and it first affected me in 2012.

I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2012. I found a lump on my chest one night while I was coughing and trying to fight off a cold. There is no history of breast cancer in my family, but I knew the lump I felt was breast cancer.

I was right. Tests, X-rays, sonograms and open biopsies all helped confirm I had HER-2 positive, ER-negative breast cancer. My treatment, which consisted of a full mastectomy of my left breast and lymph node removal, was successful.

But that isn’t where my breast cancer story ends.

Four years later, my breast cancer recurred and I’m now living with metastatic breast cancer – or stage 4. My breast cancer had spread to both lungs and my spine when it was detected in 2016.

I have days where I just want to lay around and not do anything because I don’t feel like doing anything. My body aches, I sometimes need assistance – a cane, or a pushcart, or a walker, or even a scooter – to get around.

But I’ve learned to adapt. I think that’s the major aspect of living with metastatic breast cancer – you have to learn to adapt. I’m not able to work anymore and I have no strength. The cancer and treatment have made me weak, and I’ve lost all my muscle mass. My wife is my primary caregiver; the disease is hard on her too.

I still try to do things. Yet the things I took for granted on a frequent basis I may not be able to do anymore, like standing for a long time or walking a long distance. I still try to do laundry as much as I can. I still try to cook, even though I’m not strong enough to move the pot or pan from one location to another. But it is humbling. I can’t make the bed anymore because I don’t have the strength.

As someone who lives with metastatic breast cancer, we would all love to see a cure. The reality is, if we can stop the disease from progressing, that in itself is a gold standard for us. That would be the gold standard by which I feel I could live for many, many more years.

I hope to be able to spend tomorrow, next week, a year from now with my family. My greatest hope is that I can make great memories every day. I am also very hopeful about research. I believe immensely that there’s a lot of hope for people with metastatic breast cancer in research.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.

**Support for Metastatic Breast Cancer Week comes from Merck.