Photography courtesy of Sarah Dixon.

Roughly 100 people die every day of breast cancer in the U.S. — and virtually all of these deaths are from metastatic breast cancer. That’s individual people — moms, daughters, sisters, friends — multifaceted women for whom cancer is just one thing, not everything. In October, we are telling the stories of these women who have found strength in their sense of self, power in their beauty, and who refuse to let an incurable, deadly disease tell their story for them.

“I actually just started wearing makeup two weeks ago,” 19-year-old Brittney Beadle says excitedly as I compliment her crisp cat-eye. “I got foundation and I got cover-up — I was really excited.” Like any budding makeup enthusiast, Beadle is slowly discovering the endless options that the beauty landscape has to offer. But Beadle isn’t quite like other teens learning the ins and outs of makeup.

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The Pennsylvania native has been battling a fatal form of breast cancer, but when we start chatting, the first thing she wants to discuss is anything but. Looking at the vivacious woman in front of me, I don’t see someone with a terminal illness — which is exactly what Beadle and others with her condition want.

Beadle is part of an organization called #Cancerland, a charity started by fellow cancer patient Champagne Joy. Although #Cancerland aims to support all women with breast cancer, the group’s main focus is on stage 4, or metastatic breast cancer — a fatal form that, despite the billions of dollars raised for education and research of the disease, remains incurable. It’s estimated that over 40,000 women die every year due to breast cancer (about 108 per day).

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The common perception of cancer has long been one of hospital gowns and shaved heads — a portrayal only reinforced by the representations seen on TV and in movies. But while cancer can rob a woman of some of the physical traits that she sees as part of her identity, these women want you to know that their identities are not dominated by the disease.

Yes, the 11 women profiled below have metastatic breast cancer, but they also have a love of beauty, a desire to educate, and a lust for life. Sure, cancer will never be completely removed from their narrative, but it’s only part of it.

If breast cancer’s death toll surprised you, you are not alone. Thanks to what #Cancerland’s founder Champagne Joy calls the “pink-washing” of breast cancer, many Americans believe that it is a completely curable disease. “There’s a lack of public awareness — people think that breast cancer is done,“ says Joy. “They think: We gave, there were pink ribbons, and we’re done. That’s a curable disease. It’s over.

Joy has been battling cancer for six years. She was first diagnosed with a lower stage of breast cancer in 2010 and went through the typical treatment of the disease. She was in remission for two years before her cancer came back. At that point, she had metastatic breast cancer. “Metastatic breast cancer means that the breast cancer has spread beyond the breast,” explains Joy. “It could be in your organs, it could be in your bones, and it means that it is now a terminal illness. There is no cure due to lack of research in that arena.” That’s why Joy has made it her mission to make the public aware of the grave truth about terminal breast cancer: Just 2% of research dollars spent on breast cancer goes to finding a cure for metastatic patients.

This article was originally published at the “Article” source noted above and distributed by The Tutu Project for informational purposes only.

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