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Owning Your Metastatic Breast Cancer Treatment Journey: How One Woman’s Self-Advocacy Positively Impacted Her Care

By HERWriter Guide
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A story from MyMBCStory.com, a program brought to you by AstraZeneca

Have you ever experienced a confusing doctor’s visit where the conversation with your doctor about your diagnosis left you with more questions than answers? Doctors have a wealth of information, but they may not realize that using technical terms and sharing volumes of information can be overwhelming. To help improve communication with your doctor, it’s important to ask questions until you understand exactly what your doctor is saying.

Melanie Miller knows this from first-hand experience. When she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) two and a half years ago, she received a lot of information about the disease, but even after speaking to her doctors, she didn’t understand that this was something she would live with for the rest of her life.

“It wasn’t until I read a news article in our local paper six or seven months later that it hit me that this is what I have,” Melanie told MyMBCStory. “I’m going to have this for the rest of my life, and it was quite an eye-opener…”

MBC is the most advanced stage of breast cancer, where the cancer has spread beyond the breast to other areas of the body, like the liver, lungs, brain, and bones.

After reading the article about MBC, Melanie followed up with her oncologist to better understand what this diagnosis really meant for her daily life. She also realized that those living with the disease are faced with a lack of information specifically for them.

“…There needs to be a voice, so I decided to try and find a way to be that voice, be an advocate and try and get the word out within our community that, this is what metastatic breast cancer is. It’s not like early breast cancer...” Melanie told MyMBCStory.

As a result of her self-advocacy and being involved with treatment decisions, Melanie was able to learn about her type of MBC. This has allowed her to work more closely with her doctor to make informed decisions about her care and tailor her course of treatment. She and her doctor have since established a close relationship based on open dialogue and mutual respect.

“I’m hoping that [my doctor] does the same with his other patients,” Melanie said.

Melanie’s story shows the importance of patients advocating for themselves by actively participating during their doctor visits and feeling comfortable asking questions around any confusing information being shared, rather than expecting the doctor to steer the entire conversation.

“…My advice for other MBC patients is to share their thoughts with their doctor and say, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t understand this. Talk to me about it, explain it to me,’… And just ask questions,” Melanie said.

For Melanie, the biggest change has been that she no longer feels as though her relationship is limited to “doctor and patient.” Rather, she feels they are a team. The pharmacists and nurses are also part of her team, standing with her and working together to manage MBC.

“I am blessed and fortunate to have my medical team as part of my support team. My husband and my daughter are also there to support me and are my caregivers… I’m at a point where my cancer is fairly stable, and my family understands and supports everything I do,” Melanie told MyMBCStory.

Melanie’s story portrays how emotional and scary MBC can be, but if you are living with MBC, know that you are not alone. Reading the stories of those who are going through similar challenges and sharing your own experiences with others may give you the hope and inspiration to fully embrace your journey. Sharing your story might also help others struggling to find their own voices to have the courage to ask the tough questions when something is unclear.

To provide a forum for those living with MBC to share their stories, AstraZeneca has launched the MyMBCStory Facebook page. Share your story and photo on Facebook to illustrate how you have embraced the metastatic breast cancer journey and help inspire hope in the community. Photos posted on the Facebook page will be considered for display in Times Square on Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, October 13, 2015.

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Metastatic Breast Cancer

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