Battling Metastatic Breast Cancer
- Kaleigh Bold, 34, is a 34-year-old mother battling metastatic breast cancer. She thought she had beaten the disease a few years ago, but it has since returned and spread to her bones, liver, an area above her neck and her brain.
- Signs of her cancer recurrence began with weird changes to her vision followed by pain in her body and feeling ill on her bachelorette trip.
- 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. There is technically no cure, but advancements in treatments can dramatically improve outcomes and that is something to be hopeful for.
Bold has always worked on computers. But things started to feel different when she began a new remote role last winter.Read More
After a visit with opticians, she was given glasses to use when she was looking at a screen. Then, the mother of one started having pains in her legs and hips and her body started rejecting the implants she had put in after her double mastectomy. But another trip to the doctors initially gave no conclusive answers, so Bold went on her scheduled bachelorette party.
“When I was on my [bachelorette] I just wasn’t myself. I just didn’t feel well and I was being sick but I was trying to hide it from everybody,” she said. “I think my mum knew that there was something up.
“I think quite a few people knew, to be honest, because I am not the type of person to have a few drinks and go home I am always the last one out.”
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A day after she returned from her trip, however, doctors finally gave Bold the devastating answers she needed: her breast cancer had returned and spread to her bones, liver, an area above her neck and her brain.
“I think this time round, because it is never going to go and it is always going to be here, I think I can either sit down and cry about it or get up and do stuff and I have a kind of bucket list now,” she said.
Bold refuses to let cancer get in the way of her living her life. She got married to her love in September, and she’s determined to stay positive for her family – especially her five-year-old son, Harry.
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“I think there is only one way to go and that is the positive way because I have a little boy who is five, so I can’t be moping around the house crying,” she said. “I am planning loads of things ahead to keep my mind busy, especially because I have gone from working full time and living such a busy lifestyle with Harry, I need to stay busy otherwise I will lose the plot.”
Treatment has consisted of chemotherapy, but Bold will eventually undergo radiotherapy as well. In the meantime, she wants to share her story in the hopes of raising breast cancer awareness and urging others to perform self breast exams.
“Before I even got cancer the first time, I never checked my boobs. Because I have the BRCA gene I probably would have got it at some point, but I think you’re in the shower everyday and you’re washing yourself. It literally takes a minute – if that – just to check around, just have a good little feel,” she explained.
She also wants everyone to speak up when they do feel something is wrong and ignore the fear of potentially being too “dramatic” by addressing your concerns. If you’d like to support Bold as she continues on her breast cancer journey, check out her GoFundMe page or follow her on instagram @kaybold_1.
“I would literally go round to every person and say ‘go get checked’. If I won the lottery I would buy a mammogram and do my own,” she said.
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 are 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 management 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.
One major advancement that’s made recent headlines is the reclassification of some advanced breast cancers as HER2 “low.” During an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, Dr. Comen highlighted an exciting treatment for this new classification of metastatic breast cancer patients.
“One of the most challenging types of cancer to treat is metastatic breast cancer,” Dr. Comen said. “And a new treatment, an FDA approved treatment, called Enhertu or T-DXd is being used to improve the survival of patients with a new classification of metastatic breast cancer called HER2-low metastatic breast cancer,” said Dr. Comen. “So, for anybody watching if they or their loved one has metastatic breast cancer, it’s critical that they ask their doctor, ‘Do I have HER2-low breast cancer and might this be an appropriate treatment for me?”
Living with Cancer
Life doesn’t slow down for a cancer diagnosis, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. And it’s important to remember that a cancer diagnosis – even stage four – does not mean the end of your life. In fact, our experts say that prioritizing your overall wellbeing and continuing to do the things that you love can be very beneficial.
Dr. Geoffrey Oxnard, a thoracic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, shared three things he tells his lung cancer patients about living with the disease:
- Don’t act sick – “You can’t mope around,” he said. “Do things, and in doing things, you will stay active.”
- Don’t lose weight – “Eat what you need to do to not lose weight,” he said. “I like my patients pleasantly plump.”
- Don’t be a tough guy – “When you’ve got lung cancer, you need work with your doctor to keep your medical conditions under control.”