Patient-focused conference on metastatic breast cancer set for October

Shortly after I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2009 at age 43, the Chicago Tribune published a series of articles highlighting breast cancer awareness month. I was extremely upset that there was no mention whatsoever to the risk of recurrence or any acknowledgement of stage 4 breast cancer. Posting some comments in the online reader response section made me feel better, but even as I hit the "send" button I reflected that no one would ever read my lone response tucked away in the massive archive of a major metropolitan newspaper.

But Ellen Moskowitz did. Within minutes, she contacted me to thank me for my comments and to encourage me to get involved with the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network (MBCN), an all-volunteer patient advocacy group. It was the first of many such emails. Using Google, Ellen, then the president of MBCN, kept a close eye on metastatic breast cancer developments. She was quick to pounce on any misinformation or misrepresentation of this often neglected patient population. Sometimes I wished she weren't quite so zealous, as her crusade resulted in many writing assignments for me.

In October 2010, I met Ellen in person at MBCN's Fourth Annual Metastatic Breast Cancer Conference at Indiana University's Simon Cancer Center. I went to the conference with some trepidation--would it be worth giving up my weekend and driving to Indianapolis? What if the presentations were boring? What if the attendees were all older people? What if the food was bad?

Well, I needn't have worried. The conference was fabulous, to use one of Ellen's favorite words. Prior to attending the conference, I hadn't met anyone with metastatic breast cancer. To be in an auditorium surrounded by people of all ages and backgrounds, all dealing with a metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, was amazing. The presentations were uniformly excellent. Dr. George Sledge, then president of ASCO, was among the speakers and to this day I continue to refer to his remarks on the tempo of metastatic breast cancer. It really helped me understand what I was dealing with. The food was awesome, too!

A person living with metastatic breast cancer introduced each expert speaker by sharing her own MBC story. That was so incredible to hear other people's experiences. Some were funny; all were very informative and inspiring.

If you have metastatic breast cancer, I hope to meet you in Chicago on Oct. 13. Because I will be among the hundreds of people coming from across the U.S. and Canada for the 2012 Metastatic Breast Cancer Network's (MBCN) Conference at Northwestern University's Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center. The conference is open to all--people with MBC, family, friends and caregivers. A $35 registration fee covers the costs of two receptions and all meals. Some scholarships are available for hotel and travel costs.

Expert speakers will address the basics of MBC. Specific sessions are dedicated to hormone-positive, HER2-positive and triple-negative disease. There are also sessions detailing bone mets, brain mets and pain management as well as panel discussions on living with metastatic breast cancer. Attendees will hear about the latest research and learn how to find clinical trials.

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