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Marianne’s Story: Life Interrupted By Metastatic Breast Cancer Diagnosis

In January 2024, Marianne Alexander learned she had stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer, despite being 35 and having no family history of breast cancer. She had just accepted a new job and was counting down to her wedding in April 2024. Then everything came to a stop. This is her story in her own words. You can also listen to Marianne’s Real Pink podcast episode. 

In early January, I felt a lump in my breast. It felt huge. My fiancé felt it, too, and freaked out. We called our moms and they encouraged me to make an appointment with my OBGYN. She didn’t have any appointments open for like a month, so I called my primary care doctor and she did a breast exam. She was also concerned when she felt the lump but said it could just be fatty tissue. 

My doctor sent me for a mammogram, during which the technician was somehow able to find a tumor at the back of my breast. Everything after that happened quickly. I went for an ultrasound and they said I needed a biopsy. I asked why and I will never forget what the doctor said: You have a very suspicious lump. At that point, I felt like everything fell apart.  

At first it looked like I had triple negative breast cancer. But my oncologist sent me for a PET scan and that’s when we learned the cancer had spread to my lungs. I had stage 4 (metastatic) breast cancer.  

Most women my age are thinking about getting in shape for their hot girl summer or they are young moms preparing for a baby or taking care of kids or just living life. I’m worrying about living or dying and if my treatments will work. I’m also worried about money. I looked up one of my treatments which is $34,000 dollars. I’m so thankful for my insurance. My fiancé, Dylan, and I were supposed to get married this spring, but we’ve put the wedding on hold, because I’m afraid if we get married, I’ll lose my insurance.  

Stage 4 cancer has railroaded our lives. We had everything for the wedding done except sending the invitations. Thankfully we got all our deposits back, even from a nonrefundable venue. They were all so sweet. Part of the reason we cancelled is because I’m bald, I have no eyebrows, no eyelashes. I felt ugly. But mostly, we worried I would lose insurance and the fear of me not being able to afford treatment was devastating. So, heartbreakingly, we are waiting.  

It’s an uneasy feeling. My really cool wedding dress is collecting dust. My dad won’t walk me down the aisle. Dylan and I don’t get to wear our matching Mr. and Mrs. Vans or share a first dance. I hope someday we can do all this.  

My dream of having a family is probably not in the cards anymore. I’ve always dreamed of being a mother. But with my cancer it’s probably unlikely due to the fact I will be on chemo the rest of my life and the chemo pushed me into instant menopause at the age of 35.  

Cancer in general is a wild roller coaster of emotions and just crap things. I’m still coping and I will never stop coping. And that’s completely okay I’ve come to realize. You have to ask for help. Before my diagnosis I was a brutally independent woman who did everything herself. But I learned it’s important to ask for help and ask for guidance. I have so many support systems. I do art therapy classes at my treatment center; I joined Komen’s Facebook groups and other metastatic or breast cancer groups to talk to others or read their stories.  

I used to have a ton of problems before my diagnosis. Depression, anxiety, PTSD from past trauma and overthinking and stressing about everything. Now I don’t really. My fiancé said the other day, “Cancer makes everything else so trivial that it’s like an instant cure for all the other problems.” And it’s kind of true.  

I try not to take anything for granted. I stand in the grass without shoes on. I meditate from time to time and I take classes to learn so I can cope. I love dad jokes and cancer memes. I play often with my chocolate lab. I love gaming and play when I can.  

Having metastatic breast cancer has opened my eyes and brought faith back into my soul. You must have hope and never give up – it’s the one thing you can hold on to and call yours and make it bigger and bigger.  

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment. 

Komen has two Facebook groups: Komen Metastatic Breast Cancer (Stage IV Group) and Komen Breast Cancer Group. If you’re interested in joining one of these groups, please visit Facebook and request to join these closed groups.