Breasties for Life. Breasties for Liz.
At the age of 34, Liz McCary never expected she would have to tell the people she loves that she has metastatic breast cancer. Who does?
Liz was originally diagnosed at PRISMA Health's Breast Center in Columbia, SC. However, given her advance diagnosis she and her husband, Luke McCary, decided it was best to go to Duke University's Cancer Center for treatment. Since diagnosis, she has undergone 16 rounds of chemo, 3 rounds of radiation, a bilateral mastectomy and an oopherectomy.
Here is a message from Liz McCary:
At the end of August 2018, during a self exam, I felt a lump in my left breast. The minute I felt it I knew I was embarking on a journey. This journey hasn’t been easy but it’s made me stronger and for that I am grateful.
I do not fight alone. I am on my knees thankful for my husband, my family, my faith, my friends, my coworkers, my community and my medical team at Duke, who unceasingly support me daily in this journey. I am humbled by the outpouring of generosity – you all have gone above and beyond in your support and love. Everyone has surrounded us with love in so many ways: by providing countless meals, assisting financially, taking care of Buddy, joining me at chemotherapy and doctor appointments, helping with pool and home care, writing messages of thoughts and prayers, sending us flowers and gifts, and so much more.
The only way I know how to thank you all for your tremendous support is to arm you with information that empowers you to be your own health advocate.
1. Complete monthly self-breast exams. Men, too! I found my lump during a monthly self-check. The minute I felt something wasn’t right, I called my doctor and was seen within 24 hours. Within a week, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s important to listen to your body, as you know your body better than anyone else. If something doesn’t feel right, seek a medical expert’s opinion. Don’t wait until your next yearly appointment. Your health should be your priority.
2. Know your family health history. Given my family history (maternal grandmother and aunt) of breast cancer, I performed genetic testing and found out that I am BRCA2 positive. Knowing I am BRCA2 positive provides my doctors with vital information to make the best decisions about my health. Additionally, this test provided invaluable information for my family, so they can make proactive choices for their health. You don’t have to wait for a diagnosis, like me, to have this test administered - ask your doctor how you can proactively have genetic testing done.
3. Do your research. You wouldn’t purchase a car without reading safety ratings and expert reviews, so why wouldn’t you research the people, procedures, drugs and facilities responsible for your healthcare? Isn’t your health more important than a car purchase? During this process, we didn’t hesitate to ask for help. I promise you, people want to help you get the information you need. Our friends and family made phone calls to connect us with experts in the field. These experts went over and beyond to make sure we had all the facts, tests and questions. We got second, third and fourth opinions on treatment plans. We left no stone unturned to make sure I am receiving the absolute best care for my diagnosis. Please arm yourself with knowledge. Be able to sleep at night knowing you are 100% making the right decision for your health.
4. Find your TEAM of doctors. You want healthcare providers that look you in the eye, take the time to answer all your questions, think outside the box to deliver the best care and truly care for you as a human being. When I call with a question or concern, my doctors call me back within the hour. I have never seen one of my doctors, nurses or staff at Duke look at their watch or phone. When I am with my team, they make me feel like I am the most important person they will see that day. After our initial consultation at Duke, my oncologist called me the next day to ask if we had thought of more questions for him. Additionally, he had spoken with more specialists about my case and shared their insights with us. At that point, I knew without a doubt my doctor had taken a vested interest in me. Find a team that genuinely cares about you - this seems simple, but it’s a game changer. Once you have chosen your healthcare team, do your part by following every instruction. Don’t try and control or modify the plan yourself.
5. Face challenges and obstacles in life with grace and perseverance. Nothing worth doing in life is ever easy, free or without pain. Each day we all face challenges, but each day also brings joy. If your head isn’t held high during challenges, you will miss seeing the joys in the situation. Each day when you wake up, you get to make an active decision of how you will tackle the day. Wouldn’t it be far more enjoyable to attack it with a smile? I am telling you from experience, you are stronger than you believe - I promise you. And if you ever need someone to remind you of this please call, text or email me.