DURHAM, N.C. — Hearing a diagnosis of breast cancer is traumatic. Even more devastating is hearing that cancer has spread.
According to the Susan G Komen Foundation, an estimated 42,000 men and women die each year from metastatic breast cancer, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. Most breast cancer deaths are a result of MBC, and finding a cure for the currently uncurable is a new focus for the Komen Foundation.
At a breakfast in Durham Friday, Komen recognized those who are in that fight. They don't call themselves survivors; they call themselves thrivers. Among them was Katrina Cooke, a mom of two who learned her breast cancer had spread 8 years ago.
Doctors told her, in 2011, that her life expectancy after a metastatic cancer diagnosis was 3 years.
"I have way outlived my expiration date, thank goodness," she said.
"But it shouldn't be that way. In this day and time and what we have available to us, 113 of my friends should not be dying every day from breast cancer."
The breakfast was followed by round table sessions and discussions where people like Cooke find hope in the focus on the on-going research being done that includes immunotherapy and new vaccines to treat MBC.
Pam Kohl, executive director of the Triangle to the Coast Susan G Komen Foundation, is also battling metastatic breast cancer.
“Our bold goal at Komen is to reduce the current number of breast cancer deaths by 50% in the U.S. by 2026. The key to reaching this goal is MBC research,” Kohl said. “It is research that will cure this disease, and until then, it is research that will transform MBC from terminal to chronic, giving patients and their families the priceless gift of time.”
The feeling of isolation that often accompanies an MBC diagnosis was also part of this discussion. Cooke says, finding support is key to her well being.
"Support from other metastatic breast cancer patients, your peers, is invaluable," she said.
At Friday's event, the Susan G Komen Foundation announced the start of a new support group for patients battling Metastatic Breast Cancer. Thriving Together will meet every third Thursday of the month, starting on Oct. 17, at the Blue Cross NC Raleigh Center, 8511 Brier Creek Parkway, Suite 107, in Raleigh.