Fast forward to December 2014, Shirley was diagnosed with Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. “I didn’t want to be known as Shirley – the cancer patient. Nor did I want people to feel sorry for me. I chose to only share the news outside my family with a few close friends,” Shirley said. For three years, she continued to work and didn’t share a word with any of her coworkers either, except her supervisor. Shirley was going to do things her way.
Now in retirement, her days are filled with Tai-Chi, Yoga, arts and crafts, gardening, volunteer work, and family and friends. But Shirley felt something was missing in her life. So, a couple of years ago, she created a group called the Courageous Warrior Circle. “It’s a very intimate group of women, five to be exact, who live with Metastatic Breast Cancer or MBC. We gather on a regular basis via Zoom or in person when the weather allows…the pandemic certainly threw a wrench into our usual coffee gatherings,” she indicated. “And, no, we don’t talk about our disease all the time. We talk about everyday subjects…family, hobbies, politics, just like anyone else and laugh a lot. Most of all, we offer empowerment, support and inspiration to each other through our circle of caring friendship.”
“In retirement I also got involved with the Metastatic Advisory Council for Susan G. Komen. Part of the charge of this group was to support the Metastatic Breast Cancer Dinner Series. This is a program that brings together about 20 women living with MBC. Not only is the dinner a wonderful time to socialize and support each other, but also to listen to speakers on subjects ranging from new drug therapies to exercise and nutrition. We need as much information as possible to help us manage and thrive with our diagnosis. When the Oregon and SW Washington affiliate of Susan G Komen was closed last March, the Advisory Council and Dinner Series were graciously welcomed into Pink Lemonade Project (PLP) cadre of programming. I’m happy to continue my support and involvement with the MBC community through PLP.
Planning for the future and being forward thinking has been critical for her to thrive. “I don’t want my health to be the sole focus of my daily life…and with all the challenges we face as MBC patients, it is, at times, hard to escape. I want to have my journey with MBC make a positive difference. Be a courageous warrior, live joyfully and with mindful purpose are my mantras,” said Shirley.
She hopes the Pink Lemonade Project can make a difference for people living with MBC. She said, “we need to educate women about MBC. There is not enough discussion or information provided on this topic. About 20-30% of those who have completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer will develop MBC. Thankfully, now with the advancements in drug therapies, many of us are thriving and living active lives years after our diagnosis. The MBC community needs to be embraced into all organizations supporting those impacted by breast cancer and I’m delighted to see PLP take such steps.”
She would also like to see the MBC community and Pink Lemonade Project come together to honor those who have lost their lives to the disease. “It would be incredible to create a fund to pay tribute to those women who gave so much to the MBC community and use those dollars to provide more support this community and educate the wider breast cancer community,” said Shirley.