Beth Fairchild was given two years to live when she was diagnosed with incurable stage IV metastatic breast cancer (mBC) in 2014. Six years later, the 40-year-old mother and recent grandmother is beating the odds, and she’s making the most of each and every moment.
Since her own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer two decades ago, Fairchild has worked as a tattoo professional specializing in permanent cosmetics, including areola restoration for breast cancer patients who’ve undergone reconstructive surgery. By mixing colors and utilizing shading techniques, Fairchild creates the illusion of 3D nipples protruding from the breast. She tattoos up to 10 clients per week, with each session lasting around two hours.
Fairchild added mBC advocate and spokesperson to her resume after learning she had cancer herself. She founded the social media campaign Stomp Out BC Mondays to raise awareness for mBC using the hashtag #DontIgnoreStageIV. She also serves as a board member for the MBC nonprofit METAvivor, and heads up the breast cancer awareness media platform #Cancerland.
Traveling across the country as well as internationally, Fairchild shares her story to help raise money for mBC research, and hosts multi-day retreats for those living with mBC. “Because we’re metastatic [and some treatments don’t cause hair loss or affect a patient’s appearance], we don’t look sick, and our stories go untold. But we’re the sickest of the sick, so I bring people to this space where they can talk about cancer all they want and build these bonds that last forever,” she explains.
That kind of schedule would be grueling for anyone. But it’s even more challenging for Fairchild. The medications she takes to control her cancer leave her fatigued and have caused her to develop painful arthritis in all of her joints. “Some days I’ll have breakfast and go back to bed, because the fatigue is relentless,” she says.
Having a rock-solid support system helps keep her going. “My mother and godmother will come and bring me soup or sit with me,” she says. “My pets are also a big part of my life, and now I have a two-month-old grandson who I can snuggle and love on.” Self-care is essential, too. Fairchild tries to take long morning walks with her dogs whenever she can and regularly practices yoga and meditation. “The more active I am, the better my body treats me,” she says.
Fairchild also carves out time to see a therapist, which helps her cope with the emotional chaos of living with a terminal illness. “I recommend everybody who’s diagnosed with a chronic condition have someone they can talk to about their mental health,” she says. “The anxiety of facing your own mortality day after day is exhausting.”
Even so, Fairchild is compelled to keep fighting, both for the mBC community at large and for her own daughters, both in their 20s. “I hope that [because of] the work I’m doing now, when my daughters are older and if they’re faced with a diagnosis, there will be more resources for them,” she says.
For information and resources on living with metastatic breast cancer or how to support someone who is, including a Treatment Discussion Guide, visit FindYourMBCVoice.com.
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