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The surprising blessings of breast cancer

The surprising blessings of breast cancer

Alumna Kay Metres (BA ’87) offers the insights she gained from her battle with, and recovery from, breast cancer

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

‌Dr. Kay Metres (BA ’87) struggled with breast cancer, and through her struggle, she found the words to offer to women encountering a similar situation. Metres, a graduate of Loyola’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, shared the insights she learned in her recent book, After the Fear Comes the Gifts: Breast Cancer’s Nine Surprising Blessings (ACTA). The book presents an informal but insightful look into the mental and physical toll of pain and fear that comes with a breast cancer diagnosis. We asked Metres to share a few bits of her wisdom.

What advice do you have for someone recently diagnosed with breast cancer?

I would say, "My sister, this isn't easy. You are probably scared. Maybe also mad and sad. And baffled: How did this happen? I live such a healthy life."

All of these feelings make perfect sense. Honor them. Be as mad as you need to be.

Find someone you trust who will listen. Don't get ahead of yourself, worrying about the "what ifs." Slow down. Breathe. If it helps you, and only if it helps you, read about your particular kind of breast cancer. There are about 10 of them, all with different treatment protocols. If you want to get a second opinion, get one. 

Most importantly, be gentle with yourself. Have self-compassion. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you dearly love. And have faith that you will get through this.

Do you have any tips for the family and friends of someone with breast cancer?

First, remember that this is about her. She has the right to call all the shots: to tell people or not, to look it up online or not, to get a second opinion or not. Don't pressure her. Don't tell everyone unless she gives you her permission. Listen to her carefully. She is on a journey with many twists and turns in the road. She needs you for the long haul.

That means you have to handle your own anxiety. Pray, exercise, talk to someone who can keep a confidence. Be gentle with yourself. You are scared. It makes sense. You may know that 40,000 American women die of this disease each year, but do you also know that 230,000 recover?

Support her in the ways she wants to be supported—and get the help you need for yourself.

What in your own journey through breast cancer inspired you to write this book?

I wrote this book because I realized that having breast cancer transformed me in very positive ways. As I began to recover, I noticed that small things didn't bother me as much. I laughed more. I reached out to others more. I didn't mind being wrong as much as I used to. I appreciated the strength of my body more. I became a better "sister" to the women I know. I was better able to surrender control and to ask for help.

The book deals with these changes and many others. Actually, any adversity probably creates growth. However, a frightening diagnosis has unique characteristics, and I wanted to share how it affected me and may affect others. I wanted to be a comfort to other women.