Jean Holloway didn’t fit the profile.
She was 37 years old, in good health with no family history of breast cancer. Holloway thought the lump in her breast was, most likely, a clogged milk duct, the result of nursing her young son.
“My doctor suggested I have a baseline mammogram to give me peace of mind,” she said.
What followed was a whirlwind of imaging tests and biopsies and the dreaded phone call confirming the cancer diagnosis. There would be no peace of mind.
“At first, I was thinking early stage, maybe just surgery and radiation, but it was all over my body,” she said. “I had Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer and my liver was riddled with tumors.”
Four months of chemotherapy followed her diagnosis. She still takes daily chemotherapy pills that target the cancer in her liver, as well as hormone suppressants.
“As cliché as it sounds, I take it one day at a time,” she said. “I have a great life, but I have cancer and it sucks.”
An estimated 252,710 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Approximately six to 10 percent of those patients will be diagnosed with metastatic or Stage 4, and approximately another 30 percent of breast cancer patients will develop metastatic breast cancer.
“But only 2 percent of research funds go to metastatic cancer, so that is something I have become very passionate about,” Holloway said.
In addition to her participation in the upcoming Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event, Holloway also supports METAvivor, the sole organization in the country dedicated to awarding annual Stage 4 breast cancer research.
Breast cancer is expected to take the lives of more than 40,000 women in this country this year. Strides events raise money to help the American Cancer Society fund breast cancer research, provide information and support 24-7, and provide access to mammograms for women who need them.
More than 13,000 people participated in last year’s event, raising close to $250,000. The goal this year is $350,000. From walkers in pink boas and tutus to children’s games and music, the Dayton Strides event is designed to be fun and family friendly.
“It’s a celebration of life,” said Nikki Williams, director of communications of the American Cancer Society North Central Region. “We want people to know we’re supporting them and no one is in this alone.”
Holloway walked last year in the Dayton Strides event as a member of the PSA Airlines team. Little did she know what the following year would hold for her.
“It kind of haunts me that I was walking and I had cancer but I didn’t know it,” she said. “I was an anonymous participant listening to other people’s stories. Fast-forward a year and I was giving the survivor keynote speech. This event has a completely different meaning for me now.”