Kelly Shanahan, M.D.
In 2008, I had everything going for me: a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the University of Virginia School of Medicine, I had a busy and successful ob-gyn practice in South Lake Tahoe, CA; a precocious 9-year-old daughter; and a well-used passport from traveling all over the world with my family to attend conferences, with a liberal dose of vacation on the side. When I was diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer in April 2008, I considered it a mere bump in the road; after all, I returned to work two weeks after my bilateral mastectomy and continued to work all through the four months of chemo.
And for five years, breast cancer was an aside, something to put in the past medical history section of forms. Even when I developed sudden back pain, I never thought it could be breast cancer rearing its ugly head – a pulled muscle, a herniated disc maybe, but not what it turned out to be: metastatic breast cancer in virtually every bone in my body, with a fractured vertebrae and an about-to-break left femur. I was diagnosed on my 53rd birthday.
I have been extremely lucky, for after an unconventional 14-month course of combination IV chemo and Zometa, followed by a more conventional aromatase inhibitor, I have remained NEAD – No Evidence of Active Disease — since April 2014. Neuropathy from the chemo did cost me my career, but I have found a new purpose in advocacy. I was medical director of METUP for two years; a volunteer and grant reviewer for METAvivor; a member of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Alliance and the ABC Global Alliance; a member of Komen’s Advocates in Science and Advocacy Advisory Taskforce; and a consumer reviewer for the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program. I will fight for more research funding for the already metastasized patient until my dying breath by continuing to contact my state and federal representatives and participating in legislative advocacy days on Capitol Hill, as I have since 2015.
I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a doctor, a woman LIVING with metastatic breast cancer. I am an advocate.