A Philadelphia conference this weekend addresses the unique needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer. Lectures and workshops will offer guidance not just on treatment options but also tend to the emotional issues affecting women dealing with this advanced illness.
Susan Axler of Philadelphia will be participating in the conference hosted by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Axler was first diagnosed with breast cancer when she was in her 40s, the cancer came back years later and finally metastasized into her bones.
She says this is very different from having cancer for the first time. “You have a sense of guilt that it came back, you didn’t do yoga correctly, you didn’t eat the right things, and it just came back,” she explained. “You have different feelings, you go to a regular support group, and you are the face of somebody whose cancer has returned.”
Axler says it’s important for women like her to have their own outlets for support and information. They often feel isolated because their situation is so different from someone battling cancer for the first time.
At the conference she’ll get training to become a peer advocate in a new program called “Hear My Voice” to help other women in her situation. Axler has been a patient advocate for years, and says her main cause is to get more women involved in scientific research projects where patient voices are often wanted and welcome.
Sarita Jordon of Germantown also will participate in the “Hear My Voice” training. She was diagnosed with breast cancer almost ten years ago, the cancer has since metastasized to her brain. She says her goal is to spread a message of hope, especially among African-Americans.
“When we see stage four it’s usually when our aunts, grandmothers, are at the last stages, so I want to show them, they have a face that looks like them that might have the same diagnosis that they might see, but that is living through the disease,” she explained.