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Kaye’s letter: “It feels ironic that just as we were beginning to make plans for a family, I’m faced with incurable breast cancer.”

Dear Scientist,

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At age 28 I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I kept waiting for a doctor to tell me how long I had left to live, but a countdown never came. Five years later, I’m still here. I have been on a series of hormone therapies and a recent targeted therapy that’s kept me stable. Honestly, someone in my situation couldn’t ask for more. Your research has allowed me many privileges: I work full-time, have avoided chemotherapy, and can depend on myself to practice yoga, drive, and do almost everything I would like to. These privileges aren’t afforded to everyone with Stage IV breast cancer, so I am grateful.

As grateful as I am to just be alive, I can’t pretend like it’s been easy being forced into menopause at 28—or undergoing a double mastectomy at 29. I take comfort in making my day-to-day life as normal as I can. I go to work, support my husband, and try to stay active. On the outside, I probably seem like any other married person my age. However, I had no idea that life could feel so painful and so normal at the same time. With this diagnosis, I’m stuck in a cycle of treatments and scans—a holding pattern—and everyone I love is stuck with me.

My husband and I have been married for seven years. He’s pretty much the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I was never the type of person to plot out my future, but when I met my husband, something about him changed that. Suddenly, I did care about what my future entailed. We wanted to start a family—have children, grandchildren—but cancer has taken that away from us. In a way, it feels like I am taking this away from him, the person I strive make happy. I don’t know if this is something I can get over. 

It feels ironic that just as we were beginning to make big plans for our future, our family, I’m faced with incurable breast cancer. Now, planning more than six months out doesn’t always feel aspirational, it often feels foolish. I ask myself, “Will I be well enough to do this in a year?” or “If my next scan shows progression, will I have to cancel?” I wish, everyday, that new developments will allow me to have my body back; that I won’t have to watch my friends die; that new advances will allow me to have my own children. Some of these wishes are more realistic than others, but I have to believe in my “moonshot”. I choose to believe in a wild, beautiful dream. Though unrealistic, it makes reality a little more palatable.

 I’m still astounded that I get to have days without thinking of this disease. I have you to thank for that. I can’t imagine the complexity of work someone in your field experiences—but please look at me and know that someone’s life is affected on every level because of what you do.  

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The hard thing about good work is that it’s never finished. There are plenty of people like me whose lives are literally in your hands—no pressure 😉 We need you—and we need treatments for metastatic breast cancer to continue to improve.

Sincerely,
Kaye McDonald

This content was produced by Boston Globe Media's BG BrandLab in collaboration with the advertiser. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its production or display.