Kelli Parker and Lisa Quinn shared their personal experiences as metastatic breast cancer patients at the second annual Metsquerade on Saturday (April 8). The women asked the 600 people in attendance to help them fund metastatic breast cancer research to fight the disease.
The event, held at the John Q. Hammons Center in Rogers on Saturday (April 8), raised awareness of metastatic breast cancer and acknowledged the women and men living with the terminal disease. It also benefited METAVivor a non-profit organization that uses 100 percent of donations for metastatic breast cancer research.
Metastatic breast cancer, or stage 4, is the spread of breast cancer to non-adjacent parts of the body – most commonly to the bones, liver, lungs and/or brain. Many effective breast cancer treatments exist, but if the cancer metastasizes and spreads outside of the breast, there is no cure. METAvivor is dedicated specifically to the fight of women and men living with stage-4 metastatic breast cancer. The organization’s mission is “to transition metastatic breast cancer from a terminal diagnosis to a chronic, manageable disease with a decent quality of life.”
“METAvivor is the only non-profit that’s focused on transforming a terminal illness into a chronic condition,” Parker said. “I want people to understand – everybody, early stagers and everyone, that if they render a terminal illness a chronic condition, it just helps everybody. It gives hope and peace of mind to the entire population.”
Parker said that while hundreds of millions of dollars are raised nationally to fight breast cancer, only a small portion of the money is used for metastatic breast cancer. METAvivor is the sole U.S. organization dedicated to awarding annual stage-4 breast cancer research.
Thirty percent of all breast cancer patients will metastasize, but only 2% of research funding goes to metastatic breast cancer, Parker said. METAvivor organizers believe that at least 30% of the funds given to breast cancer organizations should be dedicated to metastatic breast cancer.
Parker said she was initially diagnosed with breast cancer and treated at the age of 26, but in 2014 the disease progressed to her bones. However, her cancer has not been active since about a month into treatment.
“I’m one of the few people that has had a complete response and a continued response to therapy,” she said. “My cancer’s a one-trick pony. It doesn’t have any mutations that they are aware of….It will eventually, but that may be years from now. We don’t know.”
Quinn’s story is different. Her cancer has mutations that allow it to outsmart hormone therapy and so she is now in a clinical trial. Quinn said her two children, ages five and eight, have a 50% chance of inheriting a genetic mutation from her that could pre-dispose them to a variety of cancers.
Parker said that is why research is so critical, to help Quinn and her children and others like them.
“We don’t have three to four years to wait and the average drug takes nine years to get through the FDA,” she said. “We don’t have that kind of time.”
Organizers said that including Saturday’s Metsquerade fundraiser and the one held last year, they expect to raise $500,000, which go to METAvivor. Parker said the money funds “the best peer reviewed science that has the best chance of benefiting (metastatic patients) now.”
New to the fundraiser this year was the METAribbon challenge, which allows people across the country set up a fund-raising page through METAvivor, to raise funds through social media for metastatic breast cancer treatment research.
“It’s a way that people can get involved and raise money using their stories and be part of the Metsquerade, even if they can’t come to the Metsquarade,” Parker said.
The METARibbon challenge raised $112,000.
Honorary chair, Claire Babineeaux-Fontenot, Walmart executive vice president, treasurer, also spoke during the evening and shared that she is a breast cancer survivor. Major sponsors of the evening included Johnson & Johnson, Coldwell Banker and Highlands Oncology Group.
The fundraiser also included silent and live auctions, including such items as two VIP tickets to the Ellen DeGeneres television show, two VIP tickets to the Live with Kelly television show; a six-day safari in South Africa, and a seven-night stay in St. Maarten.