Hope and Courage

Living With Stage 4 Breast Cancer



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About

The purpose of this blog is threefold:

1) The idea for starting a blog was at first a way to share in one place with family & friends what was happening with me without having to make dozens of phones calls or emails as my cancer odyssey progresses.

2) After receiving a lot of personal benefit from other woman’s blogs my hope is this will also be a place of community for people dealing with terminal cancer, and for their families & friends. Everyone’s experience is different but there is nothing like someone who’s been there and is there, who comprehends. I’ve learned more from a few women who’ve written about their stage 4 experiences and their willingness to share publicly, than I have from any doctor. I’m grateful for their knowledgeable and fearless chronicles. I aim to offer that same type of information, hope, and courage. I’d love to hear from you and get conversations going so please leave comments below the posts if you have something to share.

3) To educate about stage 4 breast cancer. A societal awareness survey conducted by Kelton Global revealed 72 percent of Americans (mistakenly) believe advanced (stage 4) breast cancer is curable. Through education I hope people will be more aware, informed, and may choose to support organizations that spend the majority of their funds on actual research into how breast cancer metastasizes, and mutates. While prevention and early detection has grown, the number of women dying from metastatic breast cancer has remained steady at about 40,000 annually since the 1970s. More American women have died of breast cancer in the last 20 years than the number of Americans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined. Early detection is not a cure. And you know when the NFL is wearing pink that the goal of awareness has been reached — now funds need to be directed to actually finding a cure.

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Any cancer diagnosis is an unpredictable, physically and mentally frustrating, roller-coaster ride. With metastatic stage 4 (terminal) cancer the roller coaster is more intense, speeds faster, and you never get off to rest. Everyday is breast cancer awareness day for the rest of your life. There is a ticker tape constantly playing across your mind. You learn to not speak about it as much as you feel the need to, after months and even years go by. You try to plan without an actual timeline since no one can tell you how much time you have, only God knows for sure. So you take it one day at a time and hope people understand even though “you look well” it’s hard to make plans since you don’t know from one day to the next how you are going to feel or how much energy you will have.

My name is Nancy Stevenson and I’ve been dealing with cancer in one way or another for over 22 years, including 4 separate cancer recurrences, 2 lumpectomies, 1 mastectomy, multiple reconstruction surgeries, over 50 core biopsies, metastases to 75% of my bones, multiple liver tumors, lymph node involvement, cancer mutations, investigating clinical trials, 5 different cancer drugs including chemo, countless MRIs, Sonograms, PET and CT scans, constant blood tests, multiple second opinions each step of the way…not to mention the reams of insurance papers you have to process. Not one day in 22 years has gone by that cancer has not been on my mind. Even if I might forget for a while I’m reminded every morning and every night by the scars on my body. Breast cancer is not a pretty pink ribbon experience. For anyone interested in the details of my diagnosis and treatments go to ‘My History‘ at top of the home page.

Hope and Courage for me personally encompasses my worldview on this earthly life and the next life. Hope is for both this difficult, beautiful, tragic, wonderful, fallen, amazing world we live in here and now, and for the next life where there will be no more death, mourning, crying, or pain.

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I frequently update the Hope and Courage Facebook page with additional information and posts if you are interested (click here to reach it).


Here’s a look at my bone involvement in 2015 — red indicates areas of osseous metastatic lesions. Cancer in the bones from metastatic breast cancer is breast cancer in the bones and is treated as breast cancer, not bone cancer which is a different type of cancer. I have a lot of bone involvement and it has affected my bone marrow and blood counts. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and are produced in bone marrow. One result of bone marrow disruption from cancer is anemia, shortness of breath, and fatigue. Bone-Mets-1

Fortunately, all that bone involvement didn’t stop me from traveling to the south of France and the Còsta d’Azur where this photo was taken – Sept 2015.