MINNEAPOLIS - It's Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the pink signs are everywhere. But not every breast cancer patient feels included.
Those with advanced stage cancer have a different set of needs.
Camille Scheel was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005. Then early in 2012, she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer that had gone to her bones.
She knows the pink is out there so we're all aware of breast cancer.
Scheel said, "I like it because I know there's a donation behind it."
But for stage 4 breast cancer patients like Scheel and Stephanie Gerster whose breast cancer has metastasized to her liver, thinking pink also leaves them feeling left out.
Gerster said, "I think the awareness is great but I don't feel connected to it."
For them, there is no cure. Their tumors, for now shrunk with chemo, will never go away. They could face many more rounds of chemo and medications to keep it in check. Their cancer could also take them at any time. They say they live in three-month increments, from scan to scan.
But the one place they do feel they belong and can be understood is in one of just a few stage 4 breast cancer support groups in the metro. The one they belong to is offered by Allina Health.
Marcia Carson, an oncology outreach social worker with Allina said, "People who attend support groups have a better quality of life because they're able to express their emotions."
All three women, who assembled at the Piper Breast Center on Tuesday, had advice on what to say to someone with advanced cancer.
First, don't say anything. Ask about it.
Gerster said, "You can acknowledge it, you can say I feel bad you can say it sucks." She said you can ask her almost anything and she'll be willing to answer it.
Then offer something specific to help.
For example, Gerster said, "I'm going to bring you dinner tomorrow night or some night that you're free, rather than saying, 'Well, if you need anything, call.'"
So what should you not talk about? How a positive attitude could change their outcome, speculating on what could have caused their cancer, offering up what they call "quack" cures and asking them about remission.
Scheel said, "When you get to stage 4, there's really no such thing as remission."
Scheel and Gerster said what has become important to them is ordinary, day to day, joys.
With a laugh, Scheel said, "I think 25 percent of us have new puppies a lot of people have also bought convertibles."
Their goal is simply enjoying the beautiful thing that is life.
Gerster said, "It's a little bit of a blessing because I know that I need to live my life to the fullest and not everybody knows that."
Allina Health is putting on a free seminar for stage 4 breast cancer patients and their families called Celebrating Ordinary. It's happening on Saturday, October 27. Click here for a link to seminar information.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)