In Loving
Memory of Teva

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This is Teva’s story.

Diagnosis: I was trying to run a half marathon, it wasn’t my first one, and I was trying to train, but every time I went out for a run I was coming back in agony with crippling, debilitating back pain. It was to the point where I couldn’t even sit at my desk, it was so painful. I was standing in the office, during meetings, sleep was difficult – the pain was that severe. I went to the doctor and ended up in… the emergency room. They didn’t run tests; they just gave me pain killers. It took months, and then finally, with still no answers about why I had this horrible back pain, I found a lump in my breast.

I went straight to my family doctor, and he said ‘I don’t know anything about this, I need to send you for a scan’. I was immediately booked for an ultrasound, because I’m too young to have ready access to mammograms. That scan was when I had a real sense I had breast cancer. The woman who was scanning me started off joking, and when she got to that area…her manner changed. You know, I encountered that a lot with people who were supposed to have good poker faces, like the technician who gave me a big hug afterwards and looked like she was going to cry. Anyway, as soon as the ultrasound results came back, my doctor called and said I needed to come in right away for a mammogram. It all happened very quickly for me from there.

After the mammogram, they did a biopsy on the spot. The doctor scanned the results, and told me I had stage 3 breast cancer with lymph node involvement. He gave me a timeline and said, ‘by this time next year you’ll be on the other side of this’ – though he still didn’t address my back pain. That’s when they scheduled me for what they described as a ‘routine’ bone scan. I remember asking my nurse if this was normal and she said, ‘well, you don’t have pain do you?’ and I said, ‘yes I have pain, I have so much pain’.

So they gave me a timeline and a diagnosis and said ‘this is going to be the worst day ever, but you’ll get through this,’…and then the bone scan results came in.

When I was going in to get the results, I remember standing on the subway platform, and I felt an intense urge to flee. I wanted to run away. It was all I could do to get on the subway that took me in to get the news. I just didn’t want to hear it. I met my husband at the hospital and we went in to the appointment expecting to hear a plan to fight the breast cancer, and instead the oncologist said, ‘so, we are no longer looking for a cure, you have stage 4 cancer. It’s in your bones, it’s in your femur and it’s in your spine’.

I had to call my family twice. The first time with the news about breast cancer, and then I had to call a couple of weeks later to tell them it was actually stage 4. It was horrible. My mom was in total denial. She said, ‘at least it’s not stage 5’, and I hated having to tell her there is no stage 5. But how could she know?

Living with mBC: People don’t hear the word metastatic often. There’s just not a lot of communication around metastatic breast cancer. Plus, people are very uncomfortable talking about death, because talking about metastatic breast cancer is acknowledging that breast cancer is a disease that kills. Even though more women are having their cancers detected at early stages, just as many women are still dying from breast cancer. Nothing is radically changing. People aren’t talking about it because I think it’s hard for people to admit that we haven’t made the type of progress we’d like to think we would have by now.

Living with the spectre of mBC hanging over my head has made me re-evaluate how I live my life. I don’t have the energy I used to have, so I can’t do as much. It’s been very clarifying. I choose to spend more time with my family, with my wonderful husband, my mom, my sisters, my nephews and nieces, and my amazing friends. I love working in my garden and cooking beautiful, nourishing food. I’m writing and making art every chance I get because I have so much that I’d like to say in this life and it’s unlikely that I’ll have enough time to say it all.

Researchers need more funding if they’re going to accelerate their work with life extending drugs if it’s going to make a difference in the time I have left or for woman being diagnosed with mBC today. People need to know the dismal odds we’re facing.
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