This is part of an article recently published in a Dana-Farber Cancer Institute publication, Inside the Institute.
This month, there will be thousands of events and pink ribbons in honor of breast cancer awareness, but for Deb Ragosta, there is one day in particular that will be the most meaningful. On Oct. 13, she will celebrate Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day, a proclamation she successfully lobbied for and received from the Massachusetts Legislature last year.
Ragosta, a patient and Marketing/Community Education Coordinator at Milford (MA) Regional Medical Center, was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990 at age 35. Following treatment under Mona Kaddis, MD, Ragosta was cancer free for almost 20 years. In 2009, however, an accident changed her life. After jumping on a trampoline at her young cousin’s birthday party, Ragosta hurt her back. X-rays revealed suspicious lesions on her spine and scalp. A biopsy concluded that she had stage IV metastatic breast cancer.
The first National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day occurred in 2009, shortly before Ragosta’s diagnosis. Wanting to bring the awareness to a more local and personal level, Ragosta reached out to Milford’s State Representative John Fernandes. Three separate proclamations were quickly approved by the Massachusetts Senate, House, and Governor Deval Patrick.
“October is the cruelest month for us because you cannot get away from pink. It is on everything you see and touch. Twenty years ago, I would have done anything to know someone else my age dealing with this,” Ragosta says. “Now it’s time to move beyond awareness and focus on the research and education. I definitely think there is a misconception that there is a cure.”
In 2010 about 155,000 women and men were living with metastatic breast cancer in the United States and more than 40,000 are dying from it per year. The median survival after diagnosis is three years, and this statistic has shown little improvement over the last 20 years. An estimated 30 percent of women with earlier stages of breast cancer eventually develop metastatic breast cancer, normally in the lungs, liver or, like Ragosta, in the bones.
This year, Ragosta will spend Oct. 13 receiving treatment at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center at Milford, MA and will get to see the newly framed proclamations unveiled.
Here I am (left) with my oncologist, Mona Kaddis, MD. The proclamations have since been hung and her staff surprised me with flowers on October 13th. I am blessed with a wonderful medical team!
Don’t Stop Believing!