Dr. Polly Roberts

Living with MBC


On April 1st, 2010, at the age of 50, I was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer that had already spread throughout my liver. I discovered it just weeks after a routine annual mammogram came back “normal.” In a single day, my family’s world was turned upside down, and I was terrified that I might not be here to see my children grow up. But I was determined to survive!


Five years of life-saving medications and procedures have kept the cancer at bay and I owe my well-being to my remarkable UCLA doctor and a compassionate team of caregivers who understand what it means to “treat the whole person” in body, mind, and spirit. I also derive strength and sustenance from the powerful embrace of a wide circle of family and friends who have come to our rescue in a time of need. Each and every day my husband, Al, is my rock: steady and strong, he is the love of my life. Our children give me the sheer determination to survive and I am so proud of them all. My parents are my heroes and our four-year-old grandson is a shining star.


With these pillars of support, I have been able to lead an active life, working full-time as a UCLA professor and museum curator, and being thankful for every precious moment of being a mother, daughter, wife and sister, aunt and grandmother, mentor, and friend.


I am convinced that doing what you love most is the very best medicine. The detours that breast cancer places in our path can lead us to doorways of self-discovery and resilience, and embolden us to find our calling. Survival is about HOW WE LIVE, HOW WE LOVE, and WHAT WE DO with the time that we are given.


Komen has given me a profound sense of purpose and vision to help bring greater understanding to Stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC), a condition shared by so many and yet invisible for far too long. Women I have met through Komen events are strong and beautiful and inspirational. Together we can challenge misperceptions of MBC while stressing the urgency of groundbreaking research. Stage IV should never be seen as an ending, but the beginning of a journey filled with hope and promise.


This past December I had a recurrence in my liver, facing a new detour in our path. My doctor started me on a brand new FDA-designated “breakthrough” medication discovered at UCLA. It is just one of several game-changing medications to emerge in the past five years. Those of us living with MBC are in a hurry, for our survival depends on such medical breakthroughs and the speed of their approvals. We must act now as there is no time to lose. And we must march together, arm in arm to fulfill our dream of a cancer-free world.


My message to all women and men living with breast cancer is to never give up hope, to remember that you are an individual and NOT a statistic, to find even the smallest and most personal ways to cultivate emotional well-being and to share your story. Sharing our stories can change the world. We must be an army of the heart, for our lives depend on the passion and urgency of our call to action. Let us join hands and hearts and make our voices heard so that we can bring an end to breast cancer forever!


Thank you, Matt Goss, for sharing the story of your beautiful Mom and your truly sacred relationship with her. It is a reminder that we must never take a single day for granted, that nothing is more important than our loved ones, and that every second of now is a blessing. It feels good to be STRONG!