September 16, 2019
Daughter of metastatic breast cancer patient: Why I participate in the Boot Walk
BY Caroline Frenzel
From the outside, most people can’t tell that my mom has cancer. She looks great in short hair, stays really active and gets lots of exercise. But the truth is, she has stage IV breast cancer, an advanced form of the disease that has now spread to her bones. Nobody knows how much longer she might live.
It’s really scary to think that my mom’s cancer has no cure. But she’s doing everything she can to fight it — and so am I.
My mom’s first breast cancer diagnosis
My mom was first diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma — a form of breast cancer — in 2000, when I was just a toddler. I don’t remember much about that time, but I do remember pulling out clumps of her hair after walking up to her side of the bed. (I didn’t know it back then, but that hair loss was due to the hardcore chemotherapy she was on.)
My mom’s cancer went into remission after she finished treatment that year. It stayed that way until I was a junior in high school. Then, in October 2016, she had a small lump on her chest biopsied, and we found out the cancer had returned.
My mom’s second breast cancer diagnosis
My mom knew immediately that she wanted to go to MD Anderson. She called and requested an appointment at MD Anderson The Woodlands. She was able to get one within a few days.
At MD Anderson, she met with Dr. Jenny Pozadzides, Dr. Elizabeth FitzSullivan and Dr. Banu Arun. They ordered additional tests, which showed the cancer had already spread to my mom’s lymph nodes, ribs, hips, shoulders, sternum and leg bones. That made it stage IV, which is considered incurable.
Other than the lump, my mother wasn’t having any problems, feeling any pain or showing any other metastatic breast cancer symptoms. So, her new goal became to keep the cancer stable for as long as possible.
Choosing breast cancer clinical trials at MD Anderson
I really admire my mom because she doesn’t take the easy route. She never has. She’s always been a go-getter, someone who takes charge of her life.
That’s probably why she joined two clinical trials at MD Anderson. Once she knew she qualified, she didn’t hesitate. She knew MD Anderson was the only place that could offer her the cutting-edge treatment she needed. And she was happy to contribute to the research.
My mom had to leave the first clinical trial after two years because she couldn’t recover from the chemotherapy fast enough to receive additional doses, and the cancer began to grow again. But she started a second clinical trial at MD Anderson in June 2019, and so far, she’s been doing well. She’s had a few side effects, such as a rash and low blood counts, but the cancer has not been growing.
Supporting my mom through the Boot Walk to End Cancer
I like that my mom wants things to get better, not just for herself, but for others, too. She created a support group for stage IV cancer patients in The Woodlands. She’s also co-captain of her Boot Walk to End Cancer team this year.
My family’s participation in MD Anderson’s Boot Walk to End Cancer each November is one of the experiences I cherish most. We’ve done it together for the past two years. And my family loves the event because we’re supporting my mom in a fun way.
No one wants to have cancer in common. But walking with over 6,000 participants, we feel like part of a greater family. The cheering, live music, photo-ops and smiling faces make for an unforgettable experience. It’s also a great way to feel connected to my mom.
Looking at pictures from the event always brings a tear to my eye and a smile to my face. My mom looks so happy. One of our favorite memories is of walking the 1.2-mile course in our cowboy boots, clutching a big poster and holding hands. It’s a special day to come together in the fight against cancer.
Why the Boot Walk is meaningful to our family
The Boot Walk is also important to my family because of the direct fundraising impact. If individuals raise $10,000 or teams raise $25,000, they can choose where their donations go at MD Anderson. My mom’s team, Stomp Out Stage IV Breast Cancer, has raised more than $286,000 — all going to help metastatic breast cancer patients like her in MD Anderson’s Advanced Breast Cancer Clinic.
It’s remarkable that such a short walk can lead to something so meaningful. As long as MD Anderson continues to hold the event, my family will keep putting on our boots. We will always show our passion for Making Cancer History®.
Register now for the 2019 Boot Walk to End Cancer, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by calling 1-877-632-6789.
TopicsBreast Cancer Metastasis
A short walk can lead to something so meaningful.