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Research Is the Reason I Can Live in the Moment
As a new mom with metastatic breast cancer, Samantha Griffith Shoobs finds comfort in recent research advancements for stage 4
With the heady newborn bubble behind them, Samantha Griffith Shoobs and her husband were coming into their own as parents and delighting in watching their one-year-old son, Benjamin, change before their eyes. He was walking and starting to talk, and every day, a little bit more of his personality was peeking through.
As Samantha was weaning Benjamin off breastfeeding, she was surprised to feel a lump in her breast. She gave it two weeks to go away on its own, figuring it was just related to breastfeeding, but it only got worse, becoming painful to the touch.
Not even once did Samantha think the lump could be breast cancer—let alone metastatic disease. She had no family history and was only 31 years old.
“The way my first doctor broke the news that I had metastatic breast cancer was not hopeful or optimistic,” Samantha said about her diagnosis and initial appointments. “She said, ‘You have this much time left, and this is all we can do for you.’ My husband refused to accept that—so he left the room to start calling to make appointments for other opinions.”
Samantha got a new care team and oncologist, who explained that because the cancer had only spread to one spot (her right hip bone), her outlook was far better—even though metastatic breast cancer does not yet have a cure.
“I went from hearing words like, “You have a few years,’ to hearing that I could possibly get to a place where I wouldn’t have any evidence of disease for much longer,” she said. “That was huge. It was something I didn’t think we’d ever hear.”
After several chaotic months of appointments, opinions, scans, fertility treatments, and new therapies, life isn’t exactly normal now, but “mostly back to how things used to be with the exception of a few doctors’ appointments to go to.” Samantha’s breast cancer is responding well to the hormone-targeted therapies Lupron and Letrozole. She recently underwent a lumpectomy and is gearing up for radiation in the fall to her chest and pelvis.
She wants other young women and new moms to pay attention to changes in their breasts and bodies and to understand they aren’t too young to be diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I’m not going to look back and say ‘what if’ with my own diagnosis, but I want to share my story so that someone else might catch their breast cancer earlier,” she said. “I tell everyone I know who just had a baby to pay attention.”
Samantha said that although her breast cancer is responding well to treatment now and she is learning to live in the moment with her son and husband, the devastating reality of metastatic breast cancer is always in the back of her mind.
“I will always have the thought looming over me of what if the other shoe drops,” she said. “When you have metastatic disease, you celebrate the wins, but you are always cautious about what's going to come around the corner. I’ve learned to appreciate the time I have with my family and to take nothing for granted.”
Samantha said she finds hope in the fact that in the last five years nine new therapies were approved for metastatic breast cancer based on the clinical findings of BCRF investigators and other researchers and that the treatments she is on now were made possible through research.
“I can only imagine what could be accomplished with more research and as technology advances—the possibilities seem endless,” she said. “Cancer is different for everyone. The more research we can do, the more we can learn and understand the disease to be equipped to treat everyone.”