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Home » Women's healthcare » One woman inspires many secondary breast cancer patients

Lisa Fleming

Founder, Make 2nds Count

Within the space of 40 hours, Lisa Fleming received the devastating double diagnosis that changed her life.

After Lisa was told she had breast cancer, a further scan revealed it had spread throughout her bones.

“I did not have any typical symptoms. To be told I have metastatic secondary breast cancer and that it was incurable—my world fell apart,” recalls Lisa, 39, from Edinburgh.

Treating secondary breast cancer

At that point in 2017, Lisa was told her care would be palliative; but after two high-risk operations in her neck and spine, she began aggressive chemotherapy.

Fourteen further surgeries and other continued treatment followed, but as Lisa remarks: “The girl that was given the initial prognosis that I would probably not see Christmas is now here — five years on.”

During this journey, Lisa met many other women in the same position. She hopes to inspire other secondary breast cancer patients to realise that it is possible to live a full life after such a diagnosis.

Crucial conversations

Lisa also points to the importance of ‘crucial conversations’ about care and prognosis with healthcare professionals.

While her oncologist has been open in ‘two-way conversations’ with her, she says with some patients, there is a massive gap in care information. This may be about maintaining better quality of life or topics like menopause and fertility. She thinks people should be provided with more literature to take home.

She advises other secondary breast cancer patients to “advocate for themselves” and speak to medical support teams.

To be told I have metastatic secondary breast cancer and that it was incurable—my world fell apart.

Education void

Acknowledging that it can be difficult when overwhelmed by such a diagnosis, she was motivated to set up ‘Make 2nds Count’ for secondary breast cancer patients.

Now a nationwide charity, it has three pillars of research, support and education. As part of this work, Lisa supports the Novartis ‘Moments That Count’ campaign, a platform of resources and advice to “fill that education void about metastatic breast cancer.”

Lisa, now founder of Make 2nds Count and an ambassador for Moments That Count, ran a themed events business for children before she was diagnosed.

She underlines the importance of making patients aware of the signs and symptoms of secondary breast cancer — noting she had little knowledge of the disease before diagnosis.

Achieving quality of life

For Lisa, one of the biggest turning points has been in learning how to live again and live well with metastatic breast cancer and finding joy in things she sees as the ‘old Lisa.’ This includes singing and performing on stage—things Lisa didn’t think she would do again.

This article was commissioned and funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Ltd.

UK | September 2022 | 240737

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