HOUSTON – Stage 4 and metastatic breast cancer are phrases used interchangeably -- both mean the cancer has spread. It is the stage nobody wants to get to.
"If I told somebody, they would say, ‘Oh, you're going to be fine. My aunt had breast cancer and she's a survivor,'" Shannon Zureich said. "I was just like, the public does not understand what this means."
Metastatic breast cancer means patients will spend the rest of their life doing chemo treatment, the rest of their lives taking pills to manage the side effects and the rest of their lives may be anywhere from one to 10 years.
"I've been told that two more years might be the most that I could hope for," Zureich said.
The Zureich family is one example of why Houston declared Oct. 13 Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day.
"In the end, almost every single patient will die from this once it's fully established," said Dr. Matthew Ellis, director of the Smith Breast Center at Baylor.
Metastatic breast cancer is the end of the road for the 30 percent of breast cancer patients who find themselves with the diagnosis. Still, less than 10 percent of funding goes to them.
Josh Newby expressed his gratitude for the awareness day but also fights for more funding since his mother died when she was only 47.
"I had my mom for 30 years," he said. "There's little children that never grow up having a mom. That is awful," Newby said.
"The truth is, any stage breast cancer can metastasize years down the road," Zureich said. "Thirty percent will have that happen. What happened to me will happen to them and then, like I am, they're going to find themselves in a whole new place. Then it sort of feels like all of the pink ribbons and all of the money donated for awareness, you really wish that it had been put for metastatic research," Zureich said.
Zureich said the public should be getting a better return on their investment into breast cancer research. She said those who donate should demand your money go to metastatic research.