Why metastatic breast cancer matters

Monday Oct. 13, has been declared Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day by the City of Houston. I am so grateful to the city for supporting a cause that I am so passionate about.

My life was forever changed in 2010 when my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  It was a real shock because she was originally diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer in 2006 and was told she was in the clear after her original treatment.

Dr. Matthew Ellis, Josh Newby and Dr. Kent Osborne.
From left, Dr. Matthew Ellis, Josh Newby and Dr. Kent Osborne.

Metastatic breast cancer, Stage IV or advanced breast cancer, is a form of breast cancer in which the disease has spread beyond the breast into other body systems.  It is an extremely complex cancer and is very hard to treat.  This is why more funding and awareness is needed so no one has to suffer the way my mother did.

With less than five percent of funding going to support metastatic breast cancer research my mother and I decided that we should start our own foundation so that we can help support efforts to provide better treatment options. So in January of 2013 Theresa’s Research Foundation was started.

We were lucky to be introduced to Dr. Matthew Ellis and learn about the great work he is doing. We immediately hit it off and my mother truly believed that he was the person that we should support. In our first year we achieved 501 (c)(3) non-profit status, hosted three events, and donated over $30,000 to support Dr. Ellis’s research.

I was aware of the great work being done by Dr. Kent Osborne and the Lester and Sue Smith Breast Center at Baylor College of Medicine. So when I learned that Dr. Ellis would be moving to Houston to run the center so that Dr. Osborne could focus on Baylor’s NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center, while still seeing patients and continuing his research, I became very excited about the future.  With this remarkable concentration of mature leadership in breast cancer investigation I am confident that great strides will be made at the Smith Breast Center to help metastatic patients.

Josh Newby and his mother.
Josh Newby and his mother.

After her initial diagnosis, my mom found out she was a carrier of the BRCA2 mutation, which put her at a higher risk of developing the disease. After her disease progressed, I was tested and found out that I am a BRCA2 carrier as well.   The Smith Breast Center has a team of dedicated genetic specialists that can help families like mine make decisions about the best way to prevent the disease. I hope to help in their mission to educate the public about what having a family history of breast cancer means and how both men and women who carry a damaged BRCA gene can reduce their overall cancer risk.

Sadly, my mother passed away in 2013 on Thanksgiving morning. Her dream is that her foundation will be a part of helping find better treatments and one day a cure for metastatic breast cancer.

I have made it my life’s work to make her dream a reality. I have recently relocated to Houston to grow the foundation and work closely with Dr. Ellis and everyone involved with the breast center. I truly believe that together we will change the odds of metastatic breast cancer.

-By Josh Newby

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