Reaching New Heights for Breast Cancer
- Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith climbed the highest mountain in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro – in honor of his daughter’s metastatic breast cancer battle.
- Samantha Griffith Shoobs, Griffith’s daughter, was just 31 when she was diagnosed. Luckily, her husband advocated for her when the first oncologist gave her a less than hopeful prognosis, and she’s on a good course of treatment today. She’s an example of how important it is to advocate for your health and consider seeking multiple opinions.
- Metastatic breast cancer is technically not curable, but with ongoing advancements in treatments and options to dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.
In honor of his daughter’s metastatic breast cancer battle, Lands’ End CEO Jerome Griffith climbed the highest mountain in Africa – Mt. Kilimanjaro.Read More
The trek, which starts at about 5,000 feet of elevation, ascends to 19,500 feet over the course of several days. The hardest part, he said, was breathing in the thin air.
“You can’t really sleep because your body only lets you sleep long enough to stop and tell you its like, ‘hey, you need more oxygen,’ so you have to wake up and then deep breathe for a while before you can go back to sleep,” Griffith explained.
But when you ask Griffith why he made the trip up, he cites both his daughter and his other ‘family’ members as reasons.
“I’ve got two families,” he explained. “Obviously my Lands’ End family of all of our workers who’ve had breast cancer touch them in one way or another, several of them I know. But also my oldest daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer… and we wanted to climb and bring awareness to not just breast cancer, but the work that the Breast Cancer Research Foundation does. My daughter’s a big supporter because they helped her get the right care and treatment.”
As far as the state of his daughter’s health, Griffith said she is doing well despite being about halfway through her third stage of treatment for breast cancer.
“To talk to her on any given day, you would never know anything’s wrong,” he said. “She’s a real fighter, and she’s doing great at this point and time.”
Samantha’s Cancer Journey
Samantha Griffith Shoobs, Griffith’s daughter, was weaning her baby boy off breastfeeding when she noticed a lump in her breast. She figured it was related to breastfeeding, so she gave it two weeks to resolve itself. Unfortunately, the lump only got worse as it became painful to touch. She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer a couple days before New Year’s last year at 31 years old.
“The way my first doctor broke the news that I had metastatic breast cancer was not hopeful or optimistic,” Samantha told the Breast Cancer Research Foundation about her diagnosis and initial appointments. “She said, ‘You have this much time left, and this is all we can do for you.’ My husband refused to accept that – so he left the room to start calling to make appointments for other opinions.”
And thank goodness he did. After Samantha got a new care team and oncologist, she received a much better prognosis. This doctor explained that since the cancer had only spread to her right hip bone, her outlook was much better.
“I went from hearing words like, ‘You have a few years,’ to hearing that I could possibly get to a place where I wouldn’t have any evidence of disease for much longer,” she said. “That was huge. It was something I didn’t think we’d ever hear.”
Her treatment has included the hormone-targeted therapies Lupron and Letrozole, a lumpectomy and radiation. She’s responding well to treatment right now, but she knows there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer.
“I will always have the thought looming over me of what if the other shoe drops,” she said. “When you have metastatic disease, you celebrate the wins, but you are always cautious about what’s going to come around the corner. I’ve learned to appreciate the time I have with my family and to take nothing for granted.”
Understanding Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic breast cancer – also called “stage four” breast cancer – means that the cancer has spread, or metastasized, beyond the breasts to other parts of the body. It most commonly spreads to the bones, liver and lungs, but it may also spread to the brain or other organs.
And while there is technically no cure for metastatic breast cancer, there is a wide variety of treatment options used to battle the disease including hormone therapy, chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and a combination of various treatments.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, explained how she tries to manage breast cancer when it has progressed to a later stage.
“With advanced disease, the goal of treatment is to keep you as stable as possible, slow the tumor growth and improve your quality of life,” she said.
The American Cancer Society reports that there were more than 3.8 million U.S. women with a history of breast cancer alive at the start of 2019. Some of the women were cancer-free, and others still had evidence of the disease, but they also reported that more than 150,000 breast cancer survivors were living with metastatic disease, three-fourths of whom were originally diagnosed with stage I-III. And with ongoing advancements in treatments and options out there today that can dramatically reduce symptoms, there are many reasons to be hopeful.