And then they die.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_devilpup'>devilpup / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Liza Weeks Mayeske, a young mother of two little boys, died yesterday from metastatic breast cancer. It happened so fast. On June 19th she posted this on her public Facebook page:

I’m still on oxygen and bed and wheelchair ridden, but my tachycardia seems to have gotten a little better after my last treatment. My pulse is actually going under 100 when resting. I’m just so ready to find the chemo that will clear up these pleural effusions for good so that I can go off the oxygen and start leading a halfway normal life again. I miss just being able to hop in my car and take my kids places, even if it’s just to the park or McDonald’s… being stuck at home in the bed all the time is no fun at all.

Ten days later she died in the hospital. Based on the updates a friend of hers posted to our closed Facebook group, her last days were difficult. Cancer is cruel. She was in pain and had trouble breathing. I’ve chosen these simple words because I don’t want to write “she was suffering and gasping for breath”. I don’t want to think about that reality.

The longer I am involved in the online community of people with metastatic breast cancer, the more friends I lose. You can become very close to people online, especially when you and they are living with a fatal disease. We live with it until we die from it.

Is there anything I can say that hasn’t been said over and over again? We need a cure for metastatic breast cancer. We need to learn how to prevent breast cancer. We need to learn what causes breast cancer; only about five to ten percent of breast cancers are due to the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genetic mutations. We need to learn what makes it go metastatic in almost one-third of cases. The answers to these questions will put us on the road to a cure and even to prevention.

In the meantime, my friends and I will continue to live with this disease until we die from it. More and more men and women will join our ranks. More and more men and women will hear first “Yes, it is malignant,” and then “It has spread, but we will treat it as long as we can; there are still things we can try,” and finally, “We will do everything we can to keep you comfortable”. Then they die. Let us honor their memory by advocating for research for prevention, research for a cure.

Rest in peace, Liza. We miss you.



Photo Copyright: devilpup / 123RF Stock Photo

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28 Responses

  1. Scorchy says:

    As we said earlier, she didn’t lose a battle, but her death is a profound loss.

  2. Caroline says:

    It is very sad when our friends go from this awful disease.

  3. Lee says:

    A moving reflection, once again. Thank you.

    Yes, it does come (blessedly) fast at the end, having travelled this path with five friends over the past decade. Only one was in a bed a week; one just did not get up one morning, and was gone by two that afternoon. She had only been told “We will do all we can to keep you comfortable” three days earlier.

    I do want to state that they all were comfortable, that it was NOT particularly “difficult” for any of them. Morphine drops help tremendously with the dyspnea; they were conscious to within hours of their deaths. Having Hospice involved does NOT mean giving up–it means caring enough about your loved ones to have the resources available to support them when the time comes.

    We shall all die, some of us before others, and with far more loss as it happens.
    Some deaths hold more tragedy than others.
    But not one of us shall escape death. It is where this journey ultimately leads us.

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you for commenting, Lee.

      Just as all cancers, even all breast cancers, are different because they are in the bodies of individual people, all deaths are different, too.

      Back in my early days as a newly graduated nurse on a medical-surgical unit, I witnessed a large number of deaths, and I had the honor to help make the passing easier for some of my patients.

      Unfortunately, however, sometimes medicine does not have the answer.

      Sometimes medicine has an answer, but the patient’s family resists it for a while.

      It is a sad truth that sometimes people do suffer in the days leading up to death and that can be do to many different factors.

      I would also like to mention the increasingly large place of palliative care in oncology medicine these days. Palliative care means treating symptoms and providing comfort care, and it is not reserved for hospice patients any more. I would encourage anyone with advanced cancer to discuss it with their oncologist and their family before it becomes a crisis decision.

  4. Tracy says:

    And still the number grows and all the while the harsh reality of metastatic breast cancer is hidden from all but those who experience it themselves or witness it snatch away their dear ones. Science has invented the internet, the atomic bomb, cell phones and the International Space Station, decades have passed and whole countries have grown rich… Yet still there is no cure for metastatic breast cancer. Liza joins almost all of my family, and many more besides. May they all rest in peace.

    • Knot Telling says:

      I am very sorry that your family has been so dreadfully tried by this disease. No words, really.

  5. Joanne Brennan says:

    Where is the cure for us….cut the politics and get on with the trials! We’ve lost so many in such a short time 🙁

  6. Elizabeth J. says:

    Rest in peace, Liza. May God watch over and comfort your family.
    So sad. Every time I hear of yet another young mother dying, I thank God at least I have seen my children as young adults. Far too many women with this disease do not get that opportunity.
    Isn’t it time for them to find a cure? Not just more treatments that will add a year here and a few months there, but a cure!

  7. cherrysandpipes says:

    there really are no words………loss is loss………..and it hurts

  8. Maxine D says:

    Ouch – that is painful news for both you and those who knew and loved her. May her family know God’s peace during this devastating change to their lives.

    I hear the frustration being expressed regarding a cure, and yes, it is time there was more research and better treatment – trouble is it is not a ‘popular’ cure, in fact it is something that some in power want hidden, that people do die from metastatic breast cancer. Much ‘nicer/prettier’ to say early detection means a cure…

    Blessings and prayers

    • Knot Telling says:

      Thank you, Maxine. Somehow we have to help people understand that breast cancer is not a pretty little detour in someone’s life, that it can and does kill.

  9. Gail says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. It is v hard to lose so many friends… People you bond with quickly because they “get it” like no one else can. Do something nice for yourself in her memory. Take care…

  10. Paula Sanders says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Praying for her family and for you to gain strength and energy and have less pain and praying, as always, for a cure.

  11. Beth Gainer says:

    I’m so sorry about the death of Liza. It’s so heartbreaking that metastatic breast cancer stole another person. Unless there’s sufficient funding for research, we are in the dark ages.

  12. It was devastating to hear about Liza’s death as it seemed just a couple weeks before we’d been talking about her family situation.

    I also heard about her swift decline at the same time I heard that I was in remission after 3 years living with mets. There is a huge amount of survivor’s guilt and confusion that comes with NED. I’m thrilled….but why me? I did horrendous treatments for three years, but it was only to see my son graduate – and I may get so much more. Who knows how long I’ll be in remission – perjeta is too knew to say.

    And yet, women like Liza, with young children, they also want to see them graduate, every bit as much as I did – and they don’t get to.

    It’s very hard. It is hard on her family. It’s hard on her friends. But it is also hard on the breast cancer community – those who are suffering with mets and those who fear mets.

    I am with you. We need better treatments, better understanding and a damn cure.

    • Knot Telling says:

      First of all, congratulations on NED!!! That is entirely wonderful!

      I know about survivor’s guilt. I am going on sixty years old, no children, no close family – and I’m living with metastatic disease for over a decade. So many of these young women are taken far too early. It is hateful and utterly without sense or reason.

  13. I’m so sorry KT… yes, we need a cure. Now. I went to the nursery the other day to escape the breast beast, you know I’m always looking for an escape, five minutes, an hour. But it follows me everywhere, pink hydrangeas now have a breast cancer awareness label. Those labels, amongst the zillion labels I see, seem to hit me in the face at every turn. I’m so sick of this shit. So sick of pink. So very sad for Liza’s family. Words aren’t working well these days… Love you sweetie.

  14. Lisa says:

    I’m praying for your safety.

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