Published on September 3, 2020
How to Live A Joyful Life While Surviving Metastatic Breast Cancer
Metastatic Breast Cancer patient, nurse, and Tigerlily Foundation advocate, Shonte Drakeford was diagnosed at 31 years old. How has her experience with genetic testing and self-empowerment made a positive difference in her care? Today Shonte lives life to the fullest and with joy, supported by other cancer survivors and her care partners. She explains, "Cancer is life-altering and I hate it, but it is not defining my life. I focus on what truly matters for today and live as beautifully as possible."
Watch the full interview.
Transcript | Finding Joy While Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer
Hello everybody. My name is Shonte' Drakeford. I am 36 years old, and at the age of 31, I was diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer. That means that the cancer has spread from my breasts, and I have metastatic breast cancer in my lungs, in my left hip, in my rib, a few spots in my spine, and a lymph node on my right side.
I was having symptoms. When I was 25, I was told I had fibrocystic breasts. I had nipple discharge and I had very dense breasts, and even one of my breast ducts was dilated. I was told that it was all benign, there was no need to do further testing. And I was adamant. Because I am a nurse, I've been wanting to know if I could find anything early as possible. So I vouched for at least an ultrasound every six months. I didn't get the mammogram and I never received any biopsies because I did have cysts. Some of them you can feel throughout my breasts.
And I went back to my breast surgeon and was told that it could be scar tissue. But I was like, it's something more. So they gave me an MRI actually, and that's what helped diagnose everything. And I don't have any history in my family for breast cancer, but I did get genetic testing. I am BRCA negative for both, but I do have a genetic trait for colon cancer. So I have to get screened for that every five years now.
Living with stage four metastatic breast disease is different because I have to stay on treatment lifelong. And although I am a healthcare professional, I wasn't very familiar with metastatic breast cancer. So it was different to know that knowledge, and I was scared. When you get stage four, you think instantly, death. And because of the great research and treatments that they've been doing, I have been able to maintain on my first-line drug for the past five years. I was diagnosed in 2015. So that's been amazing.
I am triple positive, meaning that the cancer I have grows primarily from estrogen, progesterone and the HER2 receptor. So the medications that I'm offered are very helpful. I did get radiation in my left hip and in my right rib, and then I started oral chemotherapy for the past five years. I get scans every three months just to make sure I didn't get any progression.
But you just have to find what gives you joy. And I can't control this disease, so I just live the best way that I can. And I just kind of do things that I can do until I'm not able to do it anymore. So I like to snowboard. I like to hike. I like to spend time with my friends.
And you just kind of have to find your peace. Don't get stuck in the deep darkness of it all because you have to control every aspect of this disease. If you're stressed and depressed, it doesn't make you feel good. I'm in pain every day. I have nausea all the time. All my symptoms are unpredictable. But I do my best and I live the best way I can. So I always encourage everyone to not do this alone, to utilize your resources. There are organizations out here that are developed for a reason, to help you. So reach out to them all.
Thank you for having me. I hope I supplied encouragement for you guys today. And just keep living and thriving.