The Boston Marathon is the world’s oldest annual marathon, and on April 17, Wellesley’s own “wonder woman,” Carol Chaoui, will be running to raise funds for metastatic breast cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
But Chaoui, who wears a Wonder Woman costume when she runs, faces a much longer road, with continued treatments in the months ahead.
In July 2009, Chaoui was diagnosed with stage 3 invasive breast cancer. She then underwent a mastectomy, four months of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation.
“At that point in time, we embarked on a course of treatment… all with the hope that the cancer would essentially be cured,” said Dr. Eric P. Winer, an oncologist at Dana-Farber.
“I was fortunate in 2009 to be connected right away with the best surgeon, the best oncologist and a great team of support staff,” said Chaoui. “I was then put on a 10-year medication plan to prevent the breast cancer recurrence.”
1. Metastatic is the fatal form of breast cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer, also referred to as Stage IV, is the fatal form of breast cancer. It means that the cancer has metastasized, or spread beyond the breast, to other parts of the body, most often to the brain, lungs, liver and bones. Metastatic breast cancer is a chronic, progressive and ultimately fatal disease. Metastatic breast cancer accounts for approximately 40,000 deaths annually in the United States, roughly 110 people per day.
2. There are treatments, but there is no cure.
Once breast cancer metastasizes, it is not curable and women living with metastatic are on lifelong treatments to try to control it. Scientists and researchers do not yet know why cancer cells spread beyond the breast; however there have been advancements in treatment.
3. Women with metastatic breast cancer can live rich and meaningful lives.
Each woman’s experience with metastatic is unique and significant, and many women living with metastatic live rich and meaningful lives post-metastatic diagnoses, whether that means seeing their children graduate, attending family weddings, continuing to work or going back to school. The past few years has also seen an uptick in programs enhancing quality of life.
4. Little funding of breast cancer research is channeled toward metastatic breast cancer.
Most funding for breast cancer research goes toward awareness, prevention, and early detection. Only around 7 percent of breast cancer research funding is specifically allotted to finding a cure for metastatic breast cancer. With additional funding for research, some investigators believe the disease could eventually become manageable similar to a chronic disease, rather than a rapidly terminal disease.
5. It’s not the patient’s fault.
Nobody “deserves” a metastatic diagnosis and it does not mean a woman made the wrong lifestyle choices or didn’t catch it early enough. Some types of breast cancer are just more aggressive than others.
6. “Metsters” have their own language.
There are many different terms for people living with metastatic breast cancer. Some people call themselves “lifers,” “thrivers” or “metsters” rather than “survivors,” because…