This October, Eva Longoria is using her platform to call attention to an often untold story about breast cancer: what it can be like to endure the disease's most nefarious form, metastatic breast cancer. A few years ago, her older sister Liza was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer. She is thankfully now in remission, but understanding how important it was for her to have support while undergoing treatment is what inspired Longoria to help other women grappling with a diagnosis.
Metastatic breast cancer, also known as stage IV breast cancer, indicates that the breast cancer has spread (or metastasized) to other parts of the body, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Approximately 155,000 people in the U.S. are living with metastatic breast cancer, and up to one in three people diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will develop metastatic disease. While there are treatment options for metastatic breast cancer, there is no cure.
When Longoria first heard about metastatic breast cancer, she immediately thought of her sister, and wanted to help in any way possible. This month, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, she has joined forces with the pharmaceutical company Novartis to launch an initiative called Kiss This 4 MBC, which will raise funds and support for the metastatic breast cancer (MBC) community. And there's an easy way to help: Post a selfie using the hashtag #KissThis4MBC.
For every post tagged, the organization will donate $10 to the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network and METAvivor, which are patient-driven advocacy organizations that support people living with metastatic breast cancer. At an event for the campaign's launch in New York City, Longoria told Refinery29 why this cause is so important to her, and how you can help if someone you know is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Why do you think the conversation about metastatic breast cancer, in particular, is so important?
"The campaign was brought to my attention, and I wanted to jump onboard because I have an older sister who went through breast cancer, and thankfully is in remission, but it was something that really resonated with my family. It was important to me to be part of a campaign raising awareness and funds for metastatic breast cancer, because it's a smaller community of women with breast cancer — this is the incurable kind, where it spreads outside the breast to the liver, lungs, and bones."
What was it like spending time with women who are currently living with metastatic breast cancer?
"It was amazing. They shared their stories, diagnosis, hopes, and fears. That was really the best part of this whole campaign: listening to their wishes, and what they hoped would happen for the metastatic community. This is a terminal cancer, so most of the women have a two-year life expectancy after diagnosis. And so these women know there's a ticking clock on their life, and to just listen to the emotional toll it’s taking — not only on them, but their families — was heartbreaking. At the same time, it's motivating and inspiring for us to create some sort of change and help."
It can be difficult for friends, family, or caregivers to figure out how to help someone after a cancer diagnosis. What advice would you give for those people?
"I actually asked them this question, I said, 'How do you want me to act?' Because [cancer survivors] talk a lot about how people don’t know how to act around them anymore. One of the women had a girlfriend who’s no longer her friend, because she doesn’t know how to act, or [she thought] what do I say, or what if I say something wrong? Another woman's husband is in denial that she’s going to die, and he’s like, Stop saying that! She’s like, I’m not just saying that, it’s the truth.
"Relationships change, and I think the way people can support women is by asking them, what do you need from me? Because each woman is different, and some want to be [supported]; some don’t want support through their friends' means. I think you have to ask the woman herself, 'How can I help you through this time?'
"My sister is special needs, so we did a lot for her, and wanted to make sure that she got the best care possible. But it's still a scary diagnosis, and navigating the health system is never easy, but luckily we're surrounded by my amazing family."
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For more stories about detecting, treating, or living with breast cancer, click here.