In 2009, Shirley Mertz marched to Washington and successfully lobbied Congress to pass a resolution declaring October 13th Metastatic Breast Cancer (mBC) Awareness Day. As the President of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, an advocacy group that provides support to those living with the disease, she knows exactly what her constituents need today --- more focus on research.
Her goal simply put is, “to get researchers focused on finding treatments to contain the spread of metastatic disease (in the body)” and enable breast cancer patients to live longer on treatment.
A former teacher who has been living with metastatic disease for 10 years, Shirley is no stranger to asserting her voice. She advocates for greater attention on the emotional needs of people with metastatic disease who often spend most of their time with an oncologist focused on their physical well-being. “You have to live with nothing being certain. Quite frankly, the anxiety and uncertainty are constant, and this makes our experience very different from those with early-stage disease.”
Shirley stresses that finding credible information is key to better outcomes. Many sites are focused on the early stages of breast cancer, which do not speak to the experience of women and men with metastatic disease. Shirley points to the fact that finding quality information about their subtypes and available treatment options is critically important for metastatic patients.
Advances in recent years have been heartening to mBC patients. The discovery of subtypes in the last 15 years have shown that mBC is not one single disease, but many different subtypes, much like early stage breast cancer. These subtypes offer clues as to what type of therapy may work best to fight the cancer. Breakthroughs in genomic testing may also help in understanding which genes are turning cancer on and ‘which genes have been turned off that are not enabling the body to fight cancer.’
The Find Your MBC Voice program is designed to provide information on treatment options available for mBC as well as the tools and resources to have more informed conversations with doctors.
To hear more from Shirley and other inspirational voices, listen to Find Your MBC Voice Radio, sponsored by Pfizer.
For more information, please visit FindYourMBCVoice.com.