Beth is a mother, artist, advocate, and yogi. She’s also living with terminal cancer. When she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 34, she experienced the usual range of emotions while battling the disease — anger, grief, and fear. Eventually, she worked her way through the shock of her diagnosis to become a breast cancer activist. Seven years later, she’s witnessed an increase in funding for metastatic breast cancer research and more awareness about the disease.
“When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, I didn’t realize that over 40,000 people were dying every year from that disease in the U.S. and how little funding was going into metastatic breast cancer research. So I wanted to change that,” Beth says.
Through a series of online campaigns and virtual protests carried out through social media, she began to notice breast cancer conversations shifting to show more of the realities of the disease. In 2015, she joined METAvivor, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of advanced breast cancer and equity in research and patient support. At the time they were awarding about $250,000 in research grants. Last year they gave away $6.3 million. Here’s what she has to say about living with terminal cancer, what she stands for, and how she eliminates the nonsense in her life.
What is it like to live with terminal cancer?
It’s very challenging to live with a terminal illness. Besides the doctor’s appointments and the scans and the side effects of my medication, the mental and emotional fatigue can be exhausting. I think that death and dying aren’t things we really talk about as a society. We kind of shy away from those conversations. And when you’re forced to think about it every single day, it’s exhausting. I look in the mirror, and I’m facing my own mortality day after day. It’s frightening. It’s the unknown. But at the same time, it’s my life. It’s the path that was laid out for me. I’m going on seven years of living with this disease, which is remarkable. And every day is a gift to me.
“Every day is a gift to me.”
How do you eliminate the nonsense in your life?
It’s really easy to eliminate nonsense in your life when you’re faced with a terminal illness. Your perspective suddenly shifts to the things that are important. And to the things that are not. I look at how I want to spend my time and how I don’t want to spend my time. And the people and the things that I want to let bother me. How much time do I want to spend being annoyed, or aggravated, or angry or upset? And the answer is “very little.” So if there’s something that I don’t want to do, I have a much easier time now saying no than I did before. I know for a lot of people saying no is difficult, but my entire perspective of what’s important in this life has shifted. My kids, my family, my friends, experiencing life, traveling, different cultures, food, sights, sounds — those are the things I want in my life. I honestly have no time for the nonsense. I’m living a perfectly no-nonsense life.
“I’m living a perfectly no-nonsense life.”
If you had 30 seconds to address the world, what would you say about who you are and what you stand for?
I’m Beth, and I’m a mother first and foremost. I am an artist, a yogi, and an advocate. I’m a creator, a collector of good people. I’m a giver and a lover. I want to be good and do good. And I want to make change in this world. And know that this experience and living with cancer will not have been in vain — that I will have used this really terrible circumstance to create change for other people who will come after me.