[00:00:00] Adam Walker: In honor of national breast cancer awareness month. If you’d like to join the fight against breast cancer, please go to www.komen.org and donate today.
From Susan G Komen. This is real pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room. This week on the real paint podcast, we are having real conversations about metastatic breast cancer. We’ll be welcoming people living with metastatic breast cancer to share their stories, their experiences, and their words of encouragement.
Everyone can make a difference in the life of someone living with the disease by donating to breakthrough research. A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer is devastating, and as hard as it is to hear, metastatic breast cancer cannot be cured today. Unlike breast cancer that remains in the breast or nearby lymph nodes, you can’t get rid of all the cancer that is spread to the outer parts of the body.
A major focus of treatment for NBC is maintaining quality of life, which encompasses your overall wellbeing. Your emotional and physical health can affect your quality of life as can concerns about your financial strain caused by living with NBC. Katie Peterson is here today to discuss her story and some of the financial realities of living with metastatic breast cancer, many of which can be far reaching. Katie,
welcome to the show!
[00:01:37] Katie Peterson: Thank you so much for having me
[00:01:40] Adam Walker: well, I’m excited to talk to you and hear your story. This is a really important component of a breast cancer journey that we really needed to dive into. So let’s start with your breast cancer journey. Can you tell us about your initial diagnosis and what was going on in your life at the time
[00:01:57] Katie Peterson: when I was first diagnosed.
I had turned 30 in February. It was around June or July. So schools had just let out. And, um, my oldest son who was five was, um, out of kindergarten and. We went to the park to go play and have fun. Cause it was, you know, school’s out. So we went up to the park with a picnic basket and blankets. My S my husband was at work.
Um, so we just were there about 30 minutes and I got a phone call from my doctor saying, um, that the biopsy we did on Thursday was actually positive for breast cancer. Um, yeah.
[00:02:46] Adam Walker: Wow. Wow. That’s crazy. And so, so what were, what were your treatments like and kind of walk us through that as well.
[00:02:55] Katie Peterson: Okay. Um, my treatments were, um, well, let me go back a little bit more of the beginning.
Um, when I first found out, they told me that I had breast cancer, I was in my home and my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant. I found out that I was pregnant and 30 minutes later they told me that I had breast cancer. So it was the highest high to the lowest flow. My doctors told me that, um, if we decide to keep the baby that by the end of the year, Brent will be raising three kids on his own.
I’ll be gone. So we had to make the horrible decision of terminating the pregnancy. I was about eight weeks. And, um, so that I could stay live for my family. So that was, that was not fun. Um, when we started doing treatments, I had to do. Four different treatments of something called AC. And they call that the red devil, because it’s just, it’s red when it goes in and it is a red when it comes out.
And that really is what makes you make all your hair fallout. And, um, this is probably the most aggressive kind. There are different. Ways people are diagnosed. I was a triple positive. That means I’m estrogen, progesterone and hurting new positive. And that’s good because they have that many more medicines or drugs that I can take that I can use.
So with people who have a triple negative, it’s really hard because they just have to have like an overall. Kind of, you know, kill everything, kill all living cells really, really quick, you know? So that was, that was pretty difficult. After that I had 12 weeks, every Friday of, um, something called Taxol and that makes your hair fall out still and not stay in.
So, you know, it was kind of fun though, because I got to shave my head. And I always wanted to do that. Like GI Jane, you know,
[00:05:17] Adam Walker: I love that. That’s a, that’s a good attitude to have towards something that’s so difficult to, you know, so I love that. So, so once you got through those treatments, I mean, did you go back to life as it was before?
Or were you always kind of concerned about recurrence? Can you tell me about that?
[00:05:34] Katie Peterson: So I asked. When it was all the way done, you know, your hair starts growing back. You start being able to do more activities because your surgery sites aren’t as sore and that kind of thing. But, um, you always have that little nagging feeling right in the back of your head a bit coming back.
Um, I spoke with my doctor and she said that, well, she said that breast cancer really doesn’t ever isn’t ever really in remission. I was just kind of there in the back of your brain. So they told me to look for symptoms like back pain or headaches that won’t go away. And, um, it’s always there. So every single time I was sore or hurting or anything, I would freak.
I poor husband would be sitting in bed and I’d come bawling to him saying
he would get really worried. Cause he, he thought that that meant that I had gone to my doctor and they told me that it was back, you know, so we had to deal with that a lot. Um, so that was, that was for like six or seven years that I was. Cancer-free if you will, in reality, it really was, um, you know, growing the whole time in a different area.
[00:06:58] Adam Walker: Well, and let’s talk about that a little bit more. So what, what is the impact of metastatic breast cancer been like for your family? So I, cause I assume it, it did come back. We’re talking about metastatic breast cancer. It came back. What is that impact been like?
[00:07:16] Katie Peterson: Um, it’s been really, really hard the first time it was there. It was, uh, you know, you have breast cancer, but we’re going to beat it and, you know, positive and do all the treatments and half the treatments you’re going to be done and fine. But when it comes back, that’s just kind of the stamp on your death certificate, you know?
Um, it just means that. You generally have between five to 10 years to live? Um, no matter what your treatment is, where it went to, you know, sometimes it’s shorter of course, but that was really hard for my family because my kids were so young. Um, when I started, they were three and five years old and now today they are.
15 and 17. So they have lived with breast cancer, their entire lives, you know, they don’t know anything else. And, um, it hurts my heart to think that they had to grow up with that in their childhood, but we made it work. You know, they’re amazing, amazing young men who have learned how to be. Like empathetic and caring and putting their mom before themselves.
Always, they are the most amazing kids ever. And my husband is just the biggest trooper, you know, he’s just, he’s always happy at me and he’s just, he just tries to make my life easier. And gosh, I’m so lucky. I have such a great family. Uh,
[00:08:52] Adam Walker: it’s great. And I love hearing about the support system that you have and they care they, they give to you.
It’s really wonderful. So, so let’s talk a little bit about the financial side and the financial realities of living with metastatic breast cancer, the burden that it puts on your family and how it impacts just being able to have, you know, certain experiences.
[00:09:15] Katie Peterson: Right. Um, whew. So chemo treatments are very expensive and we have great insurance, but I could not imagine.
I can’t imagine the women and men who have no, no insurance, you know, sometimes they just have to go without, and, um, And that breaks my heart, but we were each chemo treatment I have is around 40 to $50,000 and I have to get it every three weeks. So, and that’s, um, I’ve been doing that since 2017, every three weeks having chemo treatments and, um, At the beginning of the year, I hit my deductible the very first day.
So that’s nice. So at the beginning of the year in January, we have to hit our deductible, which is around seven to 10,000. And, but that’s just for me, you still have to pay for, um, any injuries or. Sicknesses, my family has that those are still out of pocket. So it’s hard because you have to, we have to put priorities first.
Um, we’re not able to go on as many vacations as we want to. We do try to travel a lot, but, um, if you ask my boys, they would say that I never buy them anything. So.
[00:10:43] Adam Walker: Hmm. Yeah, I can, I can imagine that the, the difficulty of that, I mean, it’s, it’s just, it’s almost like a guaranteed huge expense every year, right? In addition to any other medical bills that you might have,
[00:10:55] Katie Peterson: it is, it is. And it’s, you know, it’s tough, but we are able to, um, continue our lifestyle and hopefully we’ll be able to.
Help others, if they’re in that same position being metastatic, um, there’s no, there’s no cure for being metastatic. So, um, it’s just
[00:11:23] Adam Walker: hard. Yeah, I can, I can only imagine. Um, so, so last question here. What. Advice do you have for men or women who might’ve just learned that they’re living with NBC inner, struggling to stay positive or find hope?
[00:11:41] Katie Peterson: My biggest thing through all of my breast cancer treatments and surgeries and everything was my attitude. Um, I’m I feel like. I’m a generally happy person. So that has helped me so much. And I just, you just have to be positive and happy about everything, you know, just it’s. So your attitude, if you don’t have a good attitude, then you’re just going to sit at home and sitting around at home will make you depressed, you know, gain weight or lose it.
You start losing your friends. So you lose your support group. So you just have to be positive. I’ll get out on a walk. That’s what my doctor said. And that’s what I suggest. If you feel yucky and down, go on a short walk because you’ll be outside, you’ll be with someone you love walking with ya. And it’s just your attitude.
[00:12:36] Adam Walker: Yeah. I love that. And there’s just, there’s a lot of power in fresh air and in nature and just moving around. Right. And so I love that approach. Take a few minutes, take a walk, clear your head.
[00:12:49] Katie Peterson: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
[00:12:51] Adam Walker: Well, I love that. I love that approach. I love your attitude to life and so great to hear about your wonderful and supportive family.
So, Katie, um, thank you for joining us on the show today.
[00:13:02] Katie Peterson: Thank you so much.
[00:13:05] Adam Walker: Support for MBC week is brought to you by our partner. Merck. Thank you for joining us for this special episode of real pink focused on metastatic breast cancer. You can help the metastatic breast cancer community today by donating to breakthrough research by visiting komen.org forward slash MBC donate.
Thanks for listening to real pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen for more episodes, visit real pink.com and.org for more on breast cancer. Visit komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter at AIG Walker or on my blog. Adam J walker.com.