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Tammy Goycochea, a mother of three from Greenville, only has one wish: to live long enough to see her children grow up. Tammy has spent the past few years battling stage IV metastatic breast cancer, a disease that will ultimately cut her life drastically short.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, according to nationalbreastcancer.org.

Sometimes referred to as “mets,” metastatic breast cancer is a killer. While most people think of breast cancer as something that can be fought and won, stage IV means the cancer has spread to other regions of the body, most commonly the brain, liver and spine. Women and men who are diagnosed with stage IV will spend the rest of their lives on chemo to stave off the disease as long as possible.

From diagnosis, the average expectancy for someone with mets is three to five years. Tammy was diagnosed a little more than two and a half years ago when the cancer had spread to her liver. She was initially diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in late 2014.

“In 2014, I immediately had a bilateral mastectomy and had a complete hysterectomy a few months later,” she said.

Tammy and her doctors thought she was in the clear.

But like almost a quarter of women who will experience a recurrence of the cancer, Tammy’s came back. Since being diagnosed with stage IV, she’s been through six different treatments, but every few months the drugs no longer work and doctors have to try another type of chemo to keep Tammy with her family.

Tammy is only 38. She is married and has three children, ages 6, 7 and 13. She’s intent on fighting harder and never giving up.

But she does worry for the future. Tammy’s husband, Efren, works 14 to 16 hour days, and she said she worries about how he will care for their three children and continue working to support them. That’s only one of the reasons she’s determined not give up easily.

“My faith has gotten me to this point,” she said. “That and staying very positive.”

But the reality is that 113 people die from metastatic breast cancer every day, more than 40,000 annually, according to the organization METAvivor. However, less than five percent of monies raised goes to researching how to stop metastatic breast cancer. Groups like METAvivor make sure all money raised goes to researching how to keep people like Tammy alive as long as possible.

For people like Tammy who are living with a terminal disease, positivity makes a great impact. Tammy said she wants friends and family to treat her like they always would, but to remember to be patient and understanding when she’s too tired to join in on certain things.

She also said people being willing to keep kids while she’s at appointments or offering to help around the house are incredibly helpful to her and can show the greatest love.

And it’s that love of life and family that keeps Tammy and others working so hard to find a cure and raise awareness, letting others know that breast cancer isn’t all pink and survivor walks.

One glance through METAvivor’s memorial wall shows hundreds of people who have passed from metastatic breast cancer, some even younger than 30 years old. It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone. Sadly, 155,000 women and men are currently trying to live as long as they can with mets.

“I don’t care what doctors say, there’s always hope. God is still in the business of making miracles happen,” Tammy said.

Learn more

Metastatic breast cancer awareness, research and support are the focus of METAvivor, a nonprofit organization that funds research to improve the quality of life of patients with the disease. Visit www.metavivor.org to learn how you can get involved.

Let There Be Mom is a Greenville-based nonprofit that serves local moms and dads battling life-threatening illnesses. To volunteer or get involved, visit lettherebemom.org.

You can help

Let There Be Mom’s Dine Out for Mom fundraiser is Oct. 25. Local restaurants will donate 20 percent of their total sales for the day to the organization. To view a list of participating resaturants, visit https://lettherebemom.org/events/dine-out-for-mom/.

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