Overexpressed Asks is an ongoing series, featuring the brave and honest voices of women living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Overexpressed Asks is honored to feature Andra Kalnins.
Andra Kalnins is a patient advocate, mindfulness instructor, a former nurse, and a family nurse practitioner graduate. She lives in Chicago, with her husband and 6-year-old son. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 triple-negative breast cancer in 2016, with a Stage IV metastatic breast cancer (MBC) recurrence in 2020. This past year, Andra completed mentor training with Project Life, a virtual wellness house for those living with MBC, and advocacy training through Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s (LBBC) 2021 Hear My Voice Metastatic Advocacy Program. Her advocacy interests include peer support, with a focus on quality of life and psychosocial, emotional, spiritual coping, and healing.
Using a metaphor or simile, describe your MBC journey.
My MBC journey is like a path through the wilderness that I once used to backpack – at times steep, exhausting, muddy, slippery, stormy, unrelenting – at times the surroundings are so beautiful and precious that it simply takes my breath away.
Using words and phrases, describe what it is like to live with MBC.
Nothing ever stays the same. I am always changing, evolving, and growing despite multiple progressions and treatment challenges. Trying to be grounded in the present and live life to its fullest.
What is one word/idea used in describing MBC that you appreciate? In two sentences, describe why.
I’m grateful to have found authentic friendships in the MBC community and the powerful role that this community has in lifting one another up when things get tough. We are not alone. We are truly understood.
What is one MBC word/idea that you would like to see changed? In two sentences, describe why this change is so important.
Funding and supporting MBC research is imperative. New clinical trial data is giving me another treatment option which gives my family and me hope. Research really matters because it saves and extends lives.
What would you like people to stop saying or doing after they find out you have MBC? Or what would like to say to people who do not know what MBC means?
I’ve always wanted people to feel comfortable with me, but a terminal incurable diagnosis can shift that dynamic. Please, feel free to ask me anything about MBC, and let’s open up a dialogue on topics such as grief, loss, parenting, legacy, and end of life.
What do you know now that you did not know when you were first diagnosed?
I did not share my MBC diagnosis publicly for over a year. I have since learned that there is immense strength, hope, and grace in opening up about my diagnosis and receiving support that is deeply healing.
If you are living with MBC or know someone who would benefit from the LBBC Thriving Together Virtual Conference on Metastatic Breast Cancer April 23 & 24, 2022, please share this flyer and register with this link.