Hi there! Today’s story comes from Las Vegas, Nevada. Meet Maura Bivens. I first met Maura at the LAX airport, as we were both waiting to catch the same flight to Philadelphia. She was also chosen to be a Hear My Voice Outreach Volunteer with Living Beyond Breast Cancer for women diagnosed with metastatic disease. I was taken by her zest for life, but also her humbleness in wanting to share her story and be an advocate for other women living/thriving with triple negative disease. If you think she looks familiar, you’re right! You have probably seen her picture online or in a magazine, as she is a national spokesperson for Komen and you can read about her here.
I was a very busy mom of 3, they were 10, 7 and 4 years old. I had been done with my treatment for Triple Negative Breast Cancer (stage 2B) for almost a year and really thought it was all behind me. I was trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life and I didn’t think it would include much about cancer or survivorship.
I had a routine chest xray and when they called back by the end of the day, I thought maybe something was wrong with the machine. I honestly didn’t think my cancer was coming back.
What is your ofﬁcial diagnosis. Tell us about your current treatment .
I am currently considered Triple Negative , mets to my lungs, currently NED for almost 5 years. It had been almost 5 years since I’ve had any treatment. But I am checked by the oncologist often.
How has cancer changed your life? Did you have one pivotal moment or has the journey been one of progression and growth?
When I was told I only had from 12-18 months to live, I really believed it and lived like it was down to the minute. My senses were so heightened; I jumped off the diving board at the public pool when I was with my kids, something I wouldn’t have normally done. I will never forget the feeling of the cool water on my skin, the sound of the water rushing, and the smell of the chlorine. It was so intense. We would do crazy things, like take the kids to the park in the middle of the night and I would be playing on the slide with them. But it is really hard to keep that level of living up. It was exhausting.
How do you live your best life now, thriving with a metastatic diagnosis?
I always say it’s a club that you never want to join, but you have a ton of support in it. Unfortunately, almost every week I am asked by friends and family to talk with someone with a cancer diagnoses, and not just breast cancer. Since Triple Negative is a less common form, I feel a similarity to other lesser known cancers. Any information or direction I can pass on makes me feel so much better. I also feel a bond with people going through any hard time, whether it’s financial, marriage or health. A hard time is a hard time. We all need to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
What makes you most happy, and where do you ﬁnd the most joy? Is this different than BC (before cancer)?
Now that my kids are older (16, 12 and 9), I enjoy the time I spend with them and my husband so much. It sounds so crazy, but one day when they and 3 of their friends climbed out of my suv when we got to the martial arts studio, I realized I felt so happy. I was just so grateful that I could participate in my kids doing such a great activity with other great kids.
People mean well, but often they don’t know what to say, so they say the WRONG thing. What is the worst thing someone has said to you?
“Those are fake? I didn’t know they made implants that tiny”
What did or do you ﬁnd most helpful for those wanting to encourage or help you?
When I was sick, I was housebound, I so wanted people to come and tell me about the outside world! Tell me anything about your life!
Do you feel that those of us living with metastatic disease are overlooked by the pink tide of awareness for early stage cancer in October? How would you change that?
When I went to an event for the first time as metastatic, I felt like I let everyone down for some reason. I felt like the one nobody would want around as a reminder. I couldn’t have been more wrong. These women love and support me no matter what. I feel that we are survivors all the way, no matter what your stage.
When I would go to speak at events, they would say, “Oh, we wanted someone who was done with it.” I would change their minds quickly! I wanted to show the face of metastatic breast cancer. It was never a disappointment. I took on the challenge.
What do you want people to know about YOU and your life living with this disease?
People think I live well with my disease because of my positive attitude. I don’t think that’s it at all. I don’t think lifers need to feel that pressure. My attitude has had many stinky moments!
Do you think our cure is near? Or what one scientiﬁc advancement in the treatment of MBC do you ﬁnd most encouraging.
Being a Christian, I really feel that God is revealing the mysteries of the human body slowly. The immune therapy totally fascinates me. The thought of getting your own body to fight the cancer is exciting for all types of cancer.
What is one “action” point everyone could do TODAY to promote awareness of MBC.
I was really guilty of using the term “stage IV” instead of Metastatic. If we all used it more, more people would be familiar with it.
Do you have a favorite poem, song, quote, or work of art that you would like to share with us?
I wanted to get a tshirt with a pink ribbon and a Bible verse on it when I was first diagnosed. The only one I found had Psalm 18:32 “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my path perfect.” I thought that was the dumbest verse anyone could put on a breast cancer tshirt. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. This might not have been the path I expected, would choose or even liked, but it is my path. And God makes it perfect.
I hope you were inspired by Maura’s story. Maura also blogs at “The Pink Stink.” You can follow her there.
If you are living with metastatic breast cancer and want to share your story, please contact me using the form below. I will send you all of the details.
Until next week,