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Mothers Share Battle with Breast Cancer

Updated: Saturday, August 3 2013, 04:12 PM CDT

In Texas, more than 17,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. Thirty percent of those women will battle stage IV for the rest of their lives. Many of these women are under the age of 40 trying to raise small children.

"That was the scariest part. I mean who's going to raise her," said Tammy Notley.

Tammy's daughter was two months old when she got the diagnosis,

"There were days when I couldn't even make a bottle, I couldn't get to the counter to make a bottle for her and that's very devastating."

"For those of us who are going through cancer treatment, I think there's a lot of guilt because we're disrupting the family so much," said Kelli Konopczyk.

Kelli had to tell her young children just three weeks after losing her sister to the disease, "so they also knew that Aunt Kim died from breast cancer and that was very scary for them."

Kristie McFarling was 31 years old when she found out. "I'm not afraid of what comes after in the afterlife or anything like that but you're afraid of missing your children growing up," said McFarling. "And that is definitely the strongest emotional part of this journey for all of us who are moms."

All three women have stage IV metastatic breast cancer.

"To get up everyday and think oh how long am I going to be here?" said Notley. "That's hard."

Tammy and Kristie make up a small percentage of women, about six to 10 percent,  who have been stage IV since their initial diagnosis.

"I remember just picking up my daughter and sitting on the edge of the bed and just holding her and just rocking back 'n forth because I was so shocked," said Notley.

"Kristie was diagnosed right off the bat with stage IV and  I remember just thinking like oh my gosh I can't imagine that," said Konopczyk. Kelli suffered a recurrence two years after she started treatment for stage II.

"I did cry harder for her I think and for any woman that has a reccurence than I did for myself," said McFarling.

Mets showed up in Kelli's liver and bones after she had already undergone aggressive chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

"I like to look at it like a chronic illness," said Konopczyk. "I don't like to look at it as a terminal disease."

For these women, and countless others, their daily battle with cancer is part of life.

"The cycle of ups and downs can be very exhausting or very hard emotionally and physically, so for us to kind of be there for each other and help each other through the low points and enjoy the high points is just essential," said McFarling.

Kristie, Kelli and Tammy motivate each other through a support group where all the women face the same challenges. "Other people want to understand but unless you've been there, you can't," said Notley. Motivation is critical with metastatic breast cancer because fighting means living.

The women are members of the support group, The Lotus Forum. The group was formed by the Breast Cancer Resource Center for women diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer who are ages 45 and below, and for those with school age children.

Many of the members of the Lotus Forum will be participating in the BCRC's fundraiser Art Bra Austin on Saturday, May 18. To buy tickets go to their website.

--Deeda Payton, KEYE TV News

Mothers Share Battle with Breast Cancer

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