My name is Beth Fairchild. In my former life, I was an artist, mother, wife, daughter, and friend. Now, while I may still be most of these, less the title of wife, I have added breast cancer patient, advocate, and activist to the list of things that make me, me.
This is my new, cancer life.
In May of 2014, my life was pretty normal. My then-husband and I were successful business owners. We were raising our daughter and preparing to adopt another. I was happy in my personal life, my career, and I worked out daily and ate healthily, then, there it was: cancer.
After months of complaining of intestinal discomfort and lack of energy, it was discovered that my ovaries were the size of grapefruits and in danger of rupture. They had to come out; And because I had a family history (my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer at 44 and my paternal grandmother was dead from cancer and buried at the age of 33), I decided on a total hysterectomy.
My surgery was Monday, May 12, the day after Mother’s Day. Tissue samples were sent off to pathology, and two days later, on May 14, I was told that I had metastatic breast cancer (MBC).
Now, no one ever wants to hear the “C” word. Ever. But I was diagnosed with Stage IV Lobular Carcinoma with metastases to every single bone in my body, my ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, the top portion of my vagina, the omentum, as well as in the fluid surrounding all of these things. There were also two lesions on my liver. While I’m no doctor, I knew Stage IV wasn’t good. In fact, it was really, really bad. I was told that while there were treatments available, there was no cure. I was told that even with those treatments, someone like me, statistically speaking, would live two years—maybe more, maybe less. Thankfully for me, I wouldn’t fall into that static.
After my diagnosis, I came home to die. I was in agony from the pain of surgery and I was mentally and emotionally broken. I couldn’t see beyond that moment in time, the pain and the fear, but eventually, it did get better. Every day that passed, my body healed, as did my spirit. I got stronger. I got out of the wheelchair I had been bound to. I graduated from the walker. I had my port inserted and I then endured 6 months of weekly chemotherapy. I was a 34-year-old, post-menopausal, bald-headed, terminal cancer patient, but I was alive, damn it! I was alive and LIVING, and I set out not only to take back control of my life but to change the landscape of MBC for the entire community of women and men living and dying from this disease.
Using social media as a tool, I created a virtual protest, a hashtag campaign for METAvivor, a not for profit organization dedicated to giving 100% of donations to MBC research. On March 2nd, 2015 the younger demographic of the MBC community took to the interweb and had #dontignorestageiv trending in the number 2 spot nearly the entire day on Facebook and Twitter. This small group (about 300 of us) used our social platforms to put METAvivor and MBC on the map. Since that day, we have slowly watched the needle move in a more positive direction. The community keeps pressure on other breast cancer nonprofits to do more and we advocate for better treatment options and more funding for research by meeting with congressional leaders and organizing protests, much like the AIDS movement in the 80s and 90s. Outreach continues.
No one can say for sure when my time will be up, or even for certain that this thief of life we call cancer will be the cause but, short of a miracle — and I do still believe in miracles — I will die with this cancer in my body. But that does not mean that the cancer will have won. I will NOT allow cancer to beat me because even in my death, there will be life… and hope.
The legacy I leave behind will live on, in the way I live now, the life lessons I teach my children, my advocacy work, the words I share here and in other forums and groups. If I can enlighten another who is uneducated about breast cancer or be of service to someone in need, or maybe my story will move someone to see a doctor or to have a scan or mammogram, if I can help save just one person, then I will have served a greater good.
(Disclaimer: This webpage may contain general information relating to various medical conditions and their treatment. Such information is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for advice provided by a doctor or other qualified health professional. Patients should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing a health or fitness problem or disease. Patients should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice or information about diagnosis or treatment.)