LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Millions are joining in the fight against breast cancer this October.
However, metastatic breast cancer — breast cancer that spreads — isn’t as publicized. Two locally impacted families are taking the fight into their own hands to change that.
"The day before Thanksgiving 2014, I’m on my way home from work and she calls, talking about what our plans are going to be, what we were going to do for Thanksgiving and she said, ‘the results are back and the breast cancer has spread to my bones,’" Darrin McCauley said.
It wasn’t part of the plan for McCauley and his wife, Janice, when the couple began the battle in 2009.
"I can see it in her face — and how she’s holding me and that she’s nervous and she wants to be on that survival walk," McCauley said. "That’s what I remember her telling me."
Aggressive chemotherapy, surgery and radiation followed.
"They took 16 lymph nodes from her right underarm area, and 15 showed cancer, hence we weren’t done — or she wasn’t done," McCauley said. "I say, ‘we,’ but it affects and impacts the entire family."
The next five years, Darrin says his wife of 23 years never stopped fighting. He said that was just her personality, reminiscing about her working for McDonald’s corporate for 10 years.
"When they moved her into purchasing, they gave her the project of toilet paper," he said. "You say, ‘yeah, toilet paper. What a great purchasing project.’ Well, today, instead of having multiple rolls, you have a big jumbo roll. I like to say Janice had a great way of taking something not too many people would like and really it’s what you’ve come to expect when you go into a restroom. As she lay paralyzed in hospice for five weeks, it was Halloween time. It was time to have a Halloween party and as people came into the room, she consoled them, which I thought was huge. That’s the kind of person you’re talking about. She didn’t quit, she made people feel better coming out of that room — feel better than she felt. So, I start with a project like toilet paper, she would make a lot out of things that most of us might not."
She passed away shortly after her 50th birthday, the day after Thanksgiving last year.
"When you start talking about research or Twisted Pink or things like that, money going to develop weapons, you just don’t have enough weapons — and that’s why I sit here today and try to fight for Janice," McCauley said.
Twisted Pink is an organization that’s supplying the fight.
"We’ve raised so much money in the last three years for breast cancer awareness, but three to four, five percent of that goes to research metastatic disease," Caroline Johnson said.
Its mission is to fund metastatic research, exposing statistics. Johnson founded the organization after she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
"As a caregiver, the hardest part for me is watching those you love suffer," Johnson said. "I want to be around for my kids, I have three children and that drives me to be positive for them and to have a positive outlook on life and the more that I can do for the women going through a tougher diagnosis, the more positive I stay."
She’s been in remission since June and spends her time advocating.
"We’ve gotten really kind of saturated with the pink and a lot of companies that are trying to capitalize on the pink ribbon," Johnson said. "So, just know where your money’s going and research before you give."
The hope is to one day impact change.
"The support’s there. From Janice and myself and my family — thank you for that — but we’ve got to do more when it comes to research and finding a real cure," McCauley said.
Several events will benefit Twisted Pink:
Customers are encouraged to shop and dine in NuLu on Saturday, October 15. Twenty percent of sales at Peace of the Earth, Scout and Harvest will be donated to Twisted Pink.
Today’s Woman Magazine and All Women OB/GYN and Oxmoor Center are hosting the Pink Woman Fashion Show on Thursday, Oct. 20.
Twisted Pink’s largest fundraiser is its Masquerade Ball on Saturday, Jan. 28 at The Olmsted.
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin issued a proclamation declaring Oct. 13, 2016 as Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
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