Treatment for Life by Tiffany Nardella

My name is Tiffany Nardella. I’m a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a dog mom, and I am living with metastatic breast cancer, a terminal disease. I do not know how long I have left. The average prognosis is five years, but the data is changing, and we all have a unique diagnosis with various rates of response. I could have more time; I could have less. Things can turn on a dime. This is the life of all of us living with metastatic breast cancer. We will be on some form of cancer treatment for the rest of our lives. At some point, treatment will stop working or we will run out of treatment options, and we will die.

I was originally diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer when I was 34. Since then, I have had three recurrences before it advanced to a Stage IV breast cancer diagnosis. I worked through three recurrences, bouncing between appointments and work, taking a few days off after chemo or four weeks off for surgery recovery. It was exhausting, but I needed income and health insurance; plus, I loved my job. I was very passionate about my work, and it kept my mind occupied. During this time, I joined a cycling team, learned to white water kayak, began volunteering at an animal rescue, met my husband and got married in New Orleans. I did not want cancer to run my life nor prevent me from pursuing my passions.  

Due to having so many cancer recurrences and eventually a terminal diagnosis, I had to give up my career, my bike team, my dream of being a mother, and my volunteer work at animal shelters. I spent my first two years living with MBC with a very compromised immune system due to treatment. I also found myself in bed for a week every month. I was neutropenic and anemic for years. Eventually cancer progressed further to my liver, complications put me in the hospital, I learned the cancer had mutated and became resistant to traditional therapies. I had to switch treatment for the third time. Fortunately, a new medication was approved by the FDA in early 2023 that specifically targets this particular breast cancer mutation. That became available due to research for metastatic breast cancer. If this stops working for me, the current options do not allow for quality of life and I will have to make tough decisions. But we aren’t there yet. 

We need more funds dedicated to MBC research. With all the money raised during breast cancer awareness month, only three to seven percent goes towards research to treat metastatic breast cancer. MBC is the only breast cancer that we die from. It’s shocking to think about. All the pink, all the targeted advertising, all the fundraising, how can so little be going towards the only stage of breast cancer we die from. 

I’ve worked hard to overcome all of the challenges of living with this disease. I sought therapy, support groups, am a patient advocate with LBBC and am very active in the cancer community. No one really understands how difficult this is except for other terminal cancer folks. We are called brave and strong and told to fight. Yes, we’ve had to be brave and strong but it’s not by choice, it’s not a fair fight, and it is exhausting. 

We need help. We need funding dedicated to MBC research; we need bills passed. We are eligible for disability due to a terminal disease, yet we are not eligible for Medicare until two years later when some of us would already be dead. We need to end the disparities in breast cancer treatment and access to clinical trials. We need to be seen and heard and cared about. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others and I will continue to do so for as long as I can. 

My ask is that you think before you pink. If you want to financially contribute to a breast cancer organization, I urge you to consider where your money is going. I also want you to consider that during October, many companies market pink items while in actuality the proceeds are going nowhere. 

That’s my story, one of many. I’m still lucky to be here, I’ve lost many friends to MBC, and I don’t want to lose anymore. 

Tiffany Nardella

Tiffany Nardella


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