Hey Joan Lunden: Stage IV Wants More!

BREAKING NEWS 9/30/2014:  Jen Campisano WILL be on the Today Show on Thursday. Jen writes: “No  idea how this happened, but the today show called to apologize and ask me to share my story in a segment to air Thursday. I think this is a direct result of all your emails, posts, and tweets. I will do my best to make you guys proud and call attention to MBC.”   Go Jen!!! Read Jen’s original post here: http://www.boobyandthebeast.com/


Earlier this year, Joan Lunden was diagnosed with Stage 2 triple-negative breast cancer.  Most people recall the 64-year-old Lunden  from her role as the co-host of ABC’s Good Morning America from 1980-97.

Joan has triple negative breast cancer. About 10-20% of breast cancers test negative for both hormone receptors and HER2 in the lab, which means they are triple-negative. Since hormones are not supporting its growth, the cancer is unlikely to respond to hormonal therapies such as Tamoxifen, Femara, Faslodex etc. Triple-negative breast cancer also is unlikely to respond to medications that target HER2, such as Herceptin. For someone with Stage IV triple negative breast cancer, the reality is tough it is generally chemo, chemo and more chemo. And unlike Lunden, who was lucky enough to FINISH her chemo after 12 weeks, people with metastatic breast cancer are ALWAYS on treatment–it is literally for life.

Lunden, who shaved her head prior to chemo, opted to appear bald on the October cover of  PEOPLE magazine. It is a beautiful picture–we should all look that good at 64. (We should all BE 64…but I digress.)

“I  WILL BEAT THIS” Joan declares in the headline. I certainly hope that is the case. But per breastcancer.org  triple negative tends to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. Studies have shown that triple-negative breast cancer is more likely to spread beyond the breast and more likely to recur (come back) after treatment. These risks appear to be greatest in the first few years after treatment.

To her great credit, Lunden is calling attention to triple negative breast cancer. But there is so much more to having cancer than being bald. It does take guts for a woman to go with without a wig or head covering in public–but I know many people who do–and they are just going about their day. They are not “making a statement,” they are being comfortable.

To kick off its October Breast Cancer Awareness Month activities, the Today Show is actively recruiting bald cancer patients to join  Joan on the TODAY Plaza next Wednesday, October 1st.   I, and many other cancer patients received email inquiries from producer Brittany Schreiber (@bschreibs). “Where are you located?” Brittany wrote. “Could you make it to our Rockefeller Center Plaza in  New York City?  Please reply with your name, location, phone number,
age, and a current photo.”

One of my metastatic friends lives in New York and wanted to participate. Once the producers saw she has hair, however, they rescinded her invitation to join Joan on the plaza. Never mind that this woman is far younger than Joan and, by her mere presence, could demonstrate that young people not only get breast cancer, they also get metastatic breast cancer. (No one dies from early stage breast cancer. When cancer spreads beyond the breast–i.e., Stage IV, that is what people die from–when cancer goes to the bone, liver, lungs, brain or some combo.)
Joan Lunden is 64 and bald and soon to finish her early stage breast cancer treatments. Apparently that is the only “acceptable” image of breast cancer.

Shirley Mertz, president of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network, has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2003. She has never been bald. MBCN’s vice president, Ginny Knackmuhs,  has been living with metastatic breast cancer since 2009. She has never been bald. I have also been living with metastatic breast cancer and I have never been bald either.


Until now:




Here are 13 Things Everyone Should Know About Metastatic Breast Cancer: http://mbcn.org/developing-awareness/category/13-things-everyone-should-know-about-metastatic-breast-cancer

Perhaps we should add a 14th Thing: Not Everyone With Breast Cancer–Metastatic or Not–Is Necessarily Bald!






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9 thoughts on “Hey Joan Lunden: Stage IV Wants More!

  1. Shirley A. Mertz says:

    Great post, Katherine. You hit all the points while still showing respect to Joan Lunden.

  2. Meg Donahue says:

    Thank you for this post, Katherine. I, too, have metastatic breast cancer (bone mets). I am not bald, but often feel that if I were, people would be more understanding about my situation. It’s as if because I have hair, people assume I’m pretending to have cancer.

  3. Thank you for this insightful post! I couldn’t agree more!! I am 29 years old with metastatic breast cancer to my bones and my brain, and I too have a full head of hair! It’s sad that our focus is geared towards early stage breast cancer. It’s time to stand up, and unite to change the perception and reality of the awfulness of metastatic breast cancer and who it affects.

  4. Great post, Katherine. Very educational.

  5. Gail Speers says:

    Can we not flood producer with email messages to correct this error in thinking before it happens?

  6. Katherine: Thanks for your excellent post. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if during Breast Cancer Awareness Month the media and celebrity breast cancer patients would read it and actually learn something about breast cancer and particularly TNBC and Stage IV disease?

    The Joan Lunden Today Show Bold and Bald sounds like a re-run of the Sex and The City episode with Samantha–and that was back in 2006. Same old, same old.

  7. Dee Cee says:

    Thanks, Katherine for your shout-out for TNBC and all who responded. I am a Stage Four TNBC mets to bones and liver. I call “Breast Cancer Awareness Month” Breast Cancer Unawareness Month” precisely because of the huge, glaring omission of Metastatic Breast Cancer disease. Ginny, I got a hoot from your “SatC” comment, lol. I guess the rest of us did something wrong, unlike Samantha. That cursed show made ca it all look so easy and sexy. It’s not.

  8. The Accidental Amazon says:

    A great post, Katherine. It continues to be a tremendous public disservice that so-called news broadcasters don’t seem to be acquainted with facts. I hope that the social media response to this, and Jen’s presence on the TODAY Show will acquaint them with some.

  9. […] to join her (read Katherine’s post “Hey Joan Lunden: Stage IV Wants More! in her blog Ihatebreastcancer). Joan has triple negative breast cancer, my breast cancer. A woman whom I only knew through a […]

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