Katie's Story - 'I have Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer'

02 Aug 2022

My name is Katie. I’m 30 years old and I have Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. Four years ago I was your typical career-driven, ambitious, 20-something. I had a wonderfully busy life: my work, hobbies and frantic social life filled my time. There was no room in my schedule for cancer.

But life had other plans for me. I was just weeks away from relocating to London when I received a call that my great aunt had Breast cancer. This shocking news actually prompted me to do a quick self-check in the shower, and that's when I found a rock-hard lump. Besides myself with fear, I saw a doctor the following day who assured me that it was ‘simply calcification’ and that at 27 years old, I was just too young for breast cancer. Despite my young age, I was diagnosed with hormone receptor-positive breast cancer – evidently, I wasn’t too young after all.

Rather than settling into a new life in London with my partner, I was learning a whole new routine, set by my oncology team. I had three surgeries, 22 rounds of chemotherapy, and 26 rounds of radiation.

Following my initial diagnosis and a period of adjustment, I set about conquering cancer. I changed my diet, upped my exercise and took control of all areas of my health. I was driven, determined, and dedicated to beating this demon. I was feeling good, great even, and with the assistance of treatment I thought I had finally given cancer the flick.

In May 2020 on a routine visit to my oncologist, he delivered me the devastating news that not only was cancer back, but it had spread with vengeance. It was treatable, but not curable; it was now in my bones - specifically, my chest, spine, rib, pelvis, and hip. My diagnosis? I have Stage 4 Metastatic Breast Cancer. Hearing the news was like having my heart ripped out of my chest and being struck by lightning at the same time.

Today, I’m feeling healthy and well and feel fortunate enough that I can exercise and hold down a job. Despite the side effects from my regular injections I have to keep me in medical menopause (hello fatigue, bone pain and brain fog!) I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been. I have an amazing coach and attend boot camp sessions three to four days a week. I find that moving my body regularly helps with the mental and physical side effects of my diagnosis.

My mind ebbs and flows between accepting my uncertain future and stressing about it. I do yoga and meditation – these two tools help me manage my anxiety and keep me from spiralling, wondering about an uncertain future. I try to focus on what I can control – a recent house move was a great diversion! – and I make an effort to create memories, whereas in the past, I may not have been as present.

No one can tell what the future holds – that’s true for everyone, not just me. But I have changed since my diagnosis; I have learnt what truly matters to me, and am not afraid to put myself first. I don’t worry about pleasing other people at my own expense. Every day I aim to thrive, live life to the fullest, and appreciate time spent with my wonderful family, closest friends, and new adventures.

My message for other women is to know your body. Knowledge is power - the more you know your body, the more you will know when something isn't right. If you find any lumps or bumps, discharge, or abnormalities, no matter how small, visit your doctor straight away. Do not pass GO! Do not collect 200 dollars! Don't delay! Don't procrastinate! You are never too young, healthy, fit, or busy for breast cancer.

I’m looking forward to celebrating Pink Hope’s Lipstick Day, and getting dolled up and having a high tea with friends and family. My lipstick is the colour ‘Purpose’, and this is what gets me out of bed each day. Living life with an incurable illness is tough for so many reasons, but moments like picnics with my family, advocating for better women’s health and even taking my dog for a morning walk all help me to find purpose in the everyday.

Pink Hope has provided me with some wonderful friends – I’ve connected with a lot of the women I’ve been lucky enough to meet. Some are a little older, some aren’t at the same life stage as me, but we all have the same diagnosis. We share a lot of those commonalities. I’ve made some friends who are going through the same as me, at the same time. Talking to people who know exactly what you are experiencing is really, really important. That in a way, the mental side of it, you know, talking to other people who are going through the same thing has you is really, really important as well, just so you're not so alone. And it's just people who get it?

That person I was three years ago, before my diagnosis, is still here. I’ve always been a person who has busily filled their life to capacity. In the past, I used this to escape. Today, I find way to cram as much joy into my day so that I feel fulfilled.