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Young women and metastatic breast cancer

There have been many challenges. Probably the biggest is learning to live with the reality of it all. – Chelsea

Although metastatic breast cancer is a life-changing illness for all women, young women can experience a unique set of challenges and concerns.

From a medical point of view, women with metastatic breast cancer are considered ‘young’ if they have not yet reached menopause.

If you are in your twenties, thirties or early forties, you may be facing very different issues compared with women in later stages of their lives. You might be enjoying single life, focusing on finding a partner, or partnered/married with a young family. You may just be starting out in your career, pursuing further studies, or spending time travelling. You might be saving for your first home, or living in a share house, or sharing a house with your partner. You may be thinking of having children – or not thinking about it, if that is something you planned to put off until later. You may be pregnant or caring for a young family, either with a partner or on your own.

There are many crucial changes and milestones happening in a young woman’s life. And as a young woman, a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer may feel especially frightening, confronting and isolating. You may be worrying about issues such as:

  • How are my family and friends going to take this news?
  • How much should I tell my children about breast cancer?
  • What impact is it going to have on my relationships?
  • Can I continue to work?
  • What about my future?

Emotional wellbeing and caring for yourself

A diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer can have a powerful emotional impact on you. You may feel overwhelmed at first with a sense of fear or anger at the diagnosis. As a young woman, you may feel a deep sense of grief about your opportunities being narrowed – the chance to pursue your career, to have children or grow your family, or to travel and explore. It can feel sometimes like the cancer has robbed you of hope and a future, just when you have been starting out, or hitting your stride in life. These feelings are normal and understandable.

Over time, most people come to realise that hope hasn’t gone. Your hope may now centre on long periods of disease control and feeling well, or enjoying a trip or a special event, or quality time spent with family and friends.

I see a psychologist regularly. I do Pilates and boxing, sometimes I do some meditating. I don't let little unimportant things bother me so much anymore. Your whole perspective on life changes. – Charlotte

Understanding how to care for your emotional wellbeing can help you to feel more optimistic and in control.