With a family history of breast cancer, Liz was always on top of her self-checks. But when a supposedly small diagnosis turned into something more serious, Liz had to endure a taxing treatment and an even more difficult mental recovery.
ICYMI: we went live on Instagram with Liz in June as part of our Thriver Thursday series — check out the convo here!
Liz’s Cancer Story
The diagnosis was a fast and furious whirlwind for 33-year-old Liz. The day she found a lump in her breast during a routine self-exam, Liz was able to go in right away for a check and ultrasound. Within a week, she had a mammogram and received a breast cancer diagnosis.
Recovery from this initial diagnosis was promising; doctors assured her a simple surgery would have her feeling back to her “normal self” within three months. But after Liz pushed for more tests, doctors discovered a lesion on her pelvic bone—she had Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.
“Any diagnosis is scary, but to feel like you’ve been given a chance, and then to stage 4 with percentages to live, it’s terrifying.”
Liz had to endure 16 rounds of chemotherapy, three rounds of radiation on her bone, 18 rounds of Herceptin and PERJETA, a bilateral mastectomy, and a partial hysterectomy. WOOF! 🥺
Liz is now celebrating over two years of NED status (No Evidence of Disease). But the mental toll still lingers.
“My brain is catching up to what my body went through now—what just happened to us?!” Liz now makes mental health a priority and cherishes every moment with her loved ones.
Let’s get to know her better!
Three things people might not know about Liz:
She began learning Spanish as a second language at the age of 3.
She’s part of a BBQ competition team with her husband, and now they run @eastcoastsmokebbq (🤤 ).
Their Black lab “Buddy” is named after Buddy the Elf.
What brings her joy:
Time with family, friends, and Buddy
Sunshine, beach, ice cream, and champagne 🍾
Routines were vital for Liz during treatment to reclaim some control. Some fun ones include:
Getting ready for work every weekday no matter how she feels — makeup, wig, and all
After chemo, picking up some ice cream and stopping at South of the Border in South Carolina for a funny photo
Gifting herself a Peloton Bike after chemo to help regain strength and confidence.
“Always find a way to celebrate the small victories along the way.”
Liz’s Thoughts on Support
Liz appreciated service and gifts from loved ones such as meals, yard work, dog walking, surprise visits, or porch drop-offs. However, even with such a fantastic community supporting her, she felt the appropriate support for her husband was lacking.
“People would check on me, but my husband deserved and needed that same support system. Caregivers don’t get the recognition and support they deserve; they get lost in the chaos.”
Medical Team Shout-Out
Liz is thankful for the care she receives at Duke University's Cancer Center. Her oncologist Dr. Jeremy Force and NP Dawn Barringer are heroes to Liz, having gone above and beyond their call of duty these past three years.
Liz’s advice for supporting someone going through or recovering from cancer treatment: “Listen to your gut. The advice I give to anyone who wants to comfort a loved one is if you want to reach out or do something, then do it. Tomorrow is not promised, and kindness is always welcomed. Patients already feel like a burden, and asking for help is really hard. Most importantly, please do not forget about the caregivers.”
Liz’s Silver Linings
Liz has been able to reconnect with family members and spend more time with the people (and dog!) she loves. In addition, she’s been able to re-examine work-life balance, especially with a travel-heavy job.
“I’ve been feeling more loved than I could ever imagine, meeting people all over the world going through something similar, writing articles, and being part of opportunities like this one.”
You can follow Liz at @lizmccary or her BBQ account, @eastcoastsmokebbq.