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Jerri’s Story: Living With Stage 4 Inflammatory Breast Cancer

In 2001, Jerri Johnson was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer. She has lived with metastatic breast cancer for more than 20 years. This is her story in her own words. 

I was 35 when I was diagnosed with stage 4 inflammatory breast cancer . Newly married, my future was bright and all of a sudden, this breast cancer diagnosis came. And it obviously changed plans, a lot of plans, along the way. But there are good parts, and outcomes of that as well, and wonderful support from family and friends. Health care providers that really were willing to try interesting, cutting-edge things to help save my life. 

One of those cutting-edge things was trying a chemotherapy cocktail that had just come out of initial clinical trials. My oncologist said, “Hey, we’re going to try this.” It stopped the progression of my cancer. We were able to go in and address the different metastases, and were able to get into a position where my cancer could be managed. It has been manageable for the last 20 years. 

So, after that experience, I asked my oncologist: What was the turning point? And she said it really was this research out of MD Anderson that was funded by Komen. And I didn’t know anything about Susan G. Komen. We’re not really a cancer family. I didn’t know what an oncologist was until my surgeon told me that I needed an oncologist. It was really from ground zero that we learned about this space.  

I am truly grateful to Komen for helping to save my life. And, while living with metastatic disease has not been an easy situation, it is something that has gotten much easier over the years. Any sort of chronic illness comes with a huge level of anxiety and stress. And how you manage that is a big part of how you survive and what the quality of life is as you survive that. I think that’s been a really important part of the last 20 years.