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Research Is the Reason I Remain Hopeful

By BCRF | November 17, 2022

After receiving her fifth cancer diagnosis, Susie Lee wasn’t prepared to hear it was metastatic

As a four-time cancer survivor Susie Lee, 47 was, unfortunately, no stranger to the disease. When her doctor told her that she had HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC), she said she was absolutely crushed.

“With metastatic breast cancer it’s difficult to get past the verbiage: incurable, terminal, late stage,” she said.

At the end of 2020, Susie was preparing for a routine implant replacement with her plastic surgeon. But before her surgery, she wanted her oncology surgeon to check out a slightly painful spot that never healed correctly from her previous biopsy and lumpectomy.

“When he saw it, he wanted to do an immediate in-office biopsy,” she said. “I knew right then that it was not a good sign.”

On New Year’s Eve 2020, her surgeon called. She braced herself for a diagnosis. She had been through this before.

“It was cancer—again. I had to go through all the tests to see if it had spread,” she said.

While she predicted the call meant another diagnosis, she couldn’t have predicted her doctor saying the words, “It’s metastatic breast cancer.” At the time, she had no idea what metastatic meant.

“None of my cancers were metastatic, all were caught in the early stages,” she said.

She had no idea what to expect for her treatment since there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. Soon after her diagnosis, Susie began the HER2-targeted treatments Herceptin and Perjeta, as well as chemotherapy.

Being in treatment brought her back to her past experiences with cancer—but this time was very different.

When Susie was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1996, she had no family history of cancer or known gene mutations. Later, in 2010, she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time—while six months pregnant with her son. The diagnosis was shocking to say the least. She had no family history and was unfamiliar with the disease even with her prior cancer diagnosis.

Being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer this time, she wished there was more awareness of this form.

“MBC creates a lot of fear and emotion, which can hinder you from making logical decisions,” she said.

Susie, a makeup artist for more than two decades, launched her natural skincare brand, ECHO VIE, after her first breast cancer diagnosis. Since then, she and the brand have raised thousands of dollars for BCRF’s research. In addition to running her company, Susie wants to use her voice and platform to raise awareness of MBC, so she shares her experience on Instagram, TikTok, and an in forthcoming memoir.

“Regardless of my diagnosis, I believe that my body can heal under the right circumstances,” she said. “I am not deluding myself to the facts, but I remain hopeful.”

While there is currently no cure for metastatic breast cancer, Susie said she supports research because it will improve existing therapies and find new ones that are easier to endure.

“I believe there are many ways to get to optimal health,” she said. “Only through research will we find a cure.”

Read more stories from BCRF’s Research Is the Reason storytelling initiative here.