RICHMOND, Va. -- Breast cancer runs in Catina Jones' family. Her mom and grandma are both survivors. Catina's sister Erica Scott was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) after it was too late to cure.
MBC is when the cancer has spread to another part of a patient's body. Catina said the mother of seven didn't tell anyone she was sick.
"We actually found out because she was literally beginning to look sick," she said of her sister, "and she was just afraid of the cost of the healthcare and didn't realize that mammograms can be done and procedures and therapy and treatment can be done at no cost or reduce costs for women with this condition. And so she prayed a lot and she suffered in silence."
Catina is now serving on the Board of Directors for Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation as an advocate for breast cancer patients. She wants everyone to know about resources that help pay for diagnostics and treatment.
CancerLINC is one group that provides Richmond-area patients with need-based legal and financial services.
Casey Young from CancerLINC said the organization wanted to ease the burden for cancer patients.
"If they need a will, advanced medical directive, power of attorney, things like that," she said. "And also, if they're going through medical issues like if also employment issues bankruptcy, we find a lot of the time that these medical issues and the financial issues kind of build."
While MBC is often considered chronic, Dr. Emily Bellavance, from Virginia Cancer Institute, said there is a subset of patients living more than 10 years.
She said doctors are looking at new treatments to help patients have a high-quality life while living with the disease.
"Of course, it's going to be an overwhelming diagnosis. As with many diagnosis of cancer," she said. "So I think the take-home message is really that we have many treatments to apply to this disease. So, it's a treatable disease. The focus, even though we may not be we oftentimes can't get to cure."
Dr. Bellavance said there is definitely a message a hope despite the scary word "metastatic."
And hope is exactly what Catina Jones felt when she faces her own Stage 1 breast cancer diagnosis after early detection.
"It was my big sister that saved my life," Catina said. "I would have much rather this happened a different way. But when I lost her, I became adamant that this would not happen to me. My daughter's my friends or even strangers that may just hear this story."
After her sister's diagnosis, Catina worked with her doctors to create a screening plan. She encourages everyone to get regular mammograms, even during the pandemic. And says it's important to get checked if something isn't right.
If you are living with MBC, Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation is offering a free webinar on Thursday, October 29 with Dr. Bellavance and Casey Young.