When diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2015, Rebecca Timlin-Scalera, PhD, neuropsychologist and mother of two, was completely blindsided.
Initially diagnosed with Stage II, she was later told her cancer was Stage IV metastatic, the most deadly form of the disease, and it had spread to other parts of the body. Later, a bone biopsy revealed normal tissue, and she was upgraded to Stage IIIC, the closest someone can be to the most advanced form of this type of cancer.
In a matter of weeks, Timlin-Scalera went through the emotional and informational roller coaster of experiencing nearly every stage of breast cancer before beginning treatment. Even as a neuropsychologist specializing in trauma therapy, she received an eye-opening crash course into the world of breast cancer research, treatments and communities.
Her research found that metastatic breast cancer (MBC) research receives only seven percent of federal funding for breast cancer research even though 30 percent of people diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, eventually develop MBC. The average prognosis for patients with MBC is two to three years. In 2016, there are an estimated 2.8 million women living with a history of female breast cancer in the United States.
Shortly after her diagnosis, Timlin-Scalera began writing about her experiences through her professional lens as a neuropsychologist. Using her expertise on both sides of the psychological couch, she created her popular The Cancer Couch blog as an exploration of what it means to cope when prematurely faced with mortality. Her insights have struck a chord with cancer patients, family members, friends and even those who have had no direct experience with this disease. Her writing style gracefully balances humor and pathos, which she hopes will help not only herself, but others in similar situations, to see beauty in the ordinary and appreciate everyday life with or without cancer.
Having looked the beast in the face, Timlin-Scalera resolved to take a stand to help prevent and cure breast cancer by creating The Cancer Couch Foundation (501c3). The financially transparent, volunteer-managed foundation will put donations to work directly for patients with MBC. The foundation’s goal is to fund research for advancements in metastatic breast cancer in the hopes of making this a chronic but manageable disease, not a terminal illness.
Timlin-Scalera joins host Lisa Davis to share her own journey through cancer, as well as how she's helping patients and their loved ones understand the reality of the disease.