When most people think of breast cancer, they think of the pink movement, and often times, “beating” the cancer. A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer (MBC), a late stage of the disease in which the cancer has spread beyond the breast, is different. There is no cure and, until recently, the number of people living with MBC in the United States was basically unknown. A new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) estimates more than 150,000 people are living with metastatic breast cancer.
Although the MBC population is larger than ever before, an estimated 17 percent increase from 2000 to 2010, the implication is positive as it means people are living longer in spite of their diagnosis and sheds light on the increased need for more services and research focused on MBC.
The NCI study brings attention to a growing community of people with MBC whose meaningful lives and stories are largely unheard. To give voice to those living with MBC and bring to life the reality of living with MBC, #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project was created by METAvivor, an organization dedicated to funding research focused on the metastatic breast cancer, in partnership with Eisai Inc. #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project uses art to empower people with MBC to share their experiences, educate others about this disease and encourage donations for more MBC research.
“The metastatic community really wants to be involved in research. The more people we can educate about metastatic disease, the more money we can raise for research that will ultimately help us to live longer and better-quality lives,” said Leslie Falduto, who lives with metastatic breast cancer and participated in the project. “Participating in #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project was a very powerful moment for me. I felt confident. I felt like art. I felt good about what I was doing for my community and I felt good about myself.”
The 16 people living with MBC chosen to participate in #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project tell their stories through the powerful and artful combination of body painting and underwater photography. Created by Ren and Keith Dixon, a married couple who have both lost loved ones to metastatic breast cancer, the storytelling begins in an interview with Ren Dixon, the body painting artist. After discussing their MBC experience, Ren visually represents each person’s experiences through the use of vivid color and symbols painted directly on their body. Next, Keith Dixon captures the mood and emotion of the patient’s personal journey through underwater photography.
“It is important for women and men to see that you can live a life, a fruitful and loving life, with metastatic breast cancer,” said project participant Sheila McGlown. “I think #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project brought out the boldness in me. It allowed me to express myself and my life experiences in a way I never thought I would be able to and it made me proud — proud of being a voice for young women, proud of being a voice for African-American women, proud of being a voice for veterans and proud of being a voice for the breast cancer community.”
From July 2017 to October 2018, one patient a month will be showcased, through images and video from the photoshoot, on MBCinfocenter.com and METAvivor’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts (@metavivor). The images will also be featured at an art gallery reception in New York City and made into a calendar. These calendars are available for free with a donation to METAvivor, which can be made at www.metavivor.org/store/. Donations will go to METAvivor to support research specifically for metastatic breast cancer.
A fundamental component of #ThisIsMBC Serenity Project is the belief that women and men with MBC should live their lives as fully as possible and take advantage of all resources available to them. Many educational resources and helpful information about metastatic breast cancer exists at MBCinfocenter.com. To support METAvivor’s ongoing commitment to funding MBC research, which could help those living with this disease, consider making a contribution at https://secure.metavivor.org/page/contribute/thisismbc.