After graduating from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marketing, I spent twenty years selling advertising for well-known brands, such as Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue and Bon Appetit. I met my husband on match.com and we have been blessed with two young girls, ages 6 and 9. When they were born, I never imagined I would have to wonder daily whether I would be alive to see them grow up.
At the age of 41, with no history of breast cancer in my family, I was diagnosed de novo with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) after a routine mammogram. At first, the doctors thought it was early stage, but after an MRI, 2 breast biopsies, PET/CT, liver MRI and 2 liver biopsies, the MBC finding was conclusive. This shocking and incurable diagnosis changed my life in an instant. Living with stage IV cancer has inspired me to live life in a very meaningful way. Although my current treatment is working well, I live each day knowing that the 5 year survival rate for MBC is less than 25%. My mantra has become #MakeEachDayMeaningful. Despite the diagnosis, I am committed to finding gratitude in every day. I see silver linings with greater clarity and have learned that life is centered on relationships.
Long before I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I served on the board for the Libby Ross Breast Cancer Foundation. Since my diagnosis, I have become a fierce advocate for MBC research, personally raising more than $150,000 to fund grants for Breast Cancer Alliance and METAvivor Research and Support. Recently, I co-founded the NJ Chapter of METAvivor Research and Support, (@METAvivorsofNJ) on Facebook to provide a place for patients, friends, and family to become more educated on MBC and learn how to take action to help make a difference. In 2017, I was presented with the Play for P.I.N.K. Humanitarian Award, and in 2018, I was recognized by the state of New Jersey with a Joint Legislative Resolution. I have also travelled to Washington, DC to fight for better access to healthcare for metastatic patients and championed bills that would improve quality of life for MBC patients. I live my days with a strong sense of purpose. I speak to groups of all ages, to not only raise awareness of the importance of self-exams and annual mammograms, but to educate them on the statistics surrounding MBC. Even with early detection, approximately 30 percent of early stage breast cancers return as stage IV MBC. Currently, 115 women and men are dying every day from MBC.
Over the past 2 years, I have been blown away by the types of grants that are funded through the Breast Cancer Research Program (BCRP). As a consumer reviewer, it means so much to know that my voice is being heard amongst the brightest scientists, doctors, and advocates. We all immediately have something in common when we enter the room to evaluate the research grants; to eliminate death from breast cancer. And with that crystal clear vision, we discuss which grants will have the most impact. Every year, I leave the BCRP filled with hope that ways to make MBC a chronic, manageable illness will be found to help all those fighting MBC to survive and thrive.
Every night I have the same dream. I dream that the next scientific breakthrough can happen soon enough so that I can raise my children and be part of the milestones in their lives. The BCRP is making great strides that I know can positively impact the lives of the more than 150,000 people living with this disease. Through my new lens on life, my advice is to appreciate every day. Take a vacation. Get in the videos with your loved ones. Notice the colors you see around you. Activate your senses. Listen to your favorite music playlist. Put down the phone during dinner. Give as much as you can, in as many ways as you can. It will lead to a more fulfilling life.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2020