Secondary Breast Cancer

“What I wish I knew when I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer”

Posted by Future Dreams Team on 01 July 2024


Receiving a diagnosis of secondary, stage 4, advanced or metastatic breast cancer can make the world feel like it’s stopped spinning. While Future Dreams provides a number of support groups and services to help you with this diagnosis, we also have a brilliant community of people online who are going through what you’re going through right now. Many of those people have been kind enough to share their advice around what they wish they’d known when they were first given a diagnosis of secondary breast cancer.

Here’s what the Future Dreams community say they wish they’d known when they were first diagnosed with secondary breast cancer:

  1. “That alongside all the shit of it, it’s given me a clarity and energy that I am profoundly grateful for. It’s lonely sometimes – my old non-cancer friends feel in an increasingly different world from me, and there’s a lot of grief in that. But while I absolutely don’t want cancer, I also don’t want to go back to who I was before.”

  2. “To live by my mantra ‘shoot the closest crocodile’. Yes, there are so many scary situations with SBC and even more ‘what ifs’ but to keep your mind healthy and happy you need to take on those ‘crocodiles’ one at a time. Be kind to yourself.”

  3. “That I am stronger than I ever knew, that I am extremely adaptable (and have to be to adapt to new chemo/side effects/routines), that there is still a lot of joy to be had, that you know who your true friends are.”

  4. “Secondary cancer doesn’t mean death is imminent. At first it takes time to wrap your head around how you can live with the unknown. Part of your life ends, but it can be seen as a new beginning that helps you to focus on what and who is important in your life. Some of the treatments haven’t been as harsh and life has been full and some have been more difficult and life has been quieter. No one can tell you how long you have. I still want more time.”

  5. “Even though the oncologist told me that there are treatments, all I heard was ‘incurable’. I wish I had believed her. My husband heard her and tried to convince me. Now four years later I live a happy life with my husband and our ever-growing family and friends. The dark shadow descends with hospital appointments, scans and the anxious waiting for results. SBC is a tough act but I try to live my best life. I’m grateful.”

  6. “That wasn’t the end! In fact it was the wake-up call to go grab life and enjoy it. Buy the bag, go on that holiday and spend more time with those you love. Four years on and I am mentally and physically stronger than ever.”

  7. “That I would find a way to climb out of the depths of despair with the help of a tribe of friends and family holding me, and that I would reappear into the light with some hope.”

  8. “That I have cancer but I can live with it. Some days the grief will cripple me. Be in that moment, feel that pain, cry and scream and shout, but then pick yourself and live this life. It’s a beautiful gift. I am not the person I was before, I cherish the simple things so much more.”

  9. “I wish I’d known treatment can be really manageable and nearly three years on you can still be living a fairly normal life.”

  10. “That I would still be alive eight years later, living a happy life.”

  11. “It doesn’t mean the end. Secondary treatments have come a long way and hopefully will continue to even more in coming years. I have been ‘living’ with secondary for 6 years now and still on 1st line treatment. I was so terrified at the beginning I could barely function. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.”

  12. “Don’t let cancer win twice by destroying your mental health. Stay positive and smile, look after your health by eating healthy and exercising a little every day because every day there is life, there is hope of more treatments being discovered.”

Further information

Future Dreams hold a range of support groups, classes, workshops and events to help you and your carers during your breast cancer diagnosis. These are held both online and in person at the London-based Future Dreams House. To see what’s on offer and to book your place, see here.

To return to the homepage of our Information Hub, click here where you can access more helpful information, practical advice, personal stories and more.

July 2024

Next review date July 2027

Unless otherwise specified, the information and content provided on this page has been written from a patient’s perspective then reviewed by a breast care nurse and it is intended for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. Please contact your medical team for advice on anything covered in this article and/or in relation to your personal situation. The links and/or recommendations in this article to third-party resources are for your information and we take no responsibility for the content contained in those third-party resources.


Sylvie Henry and Danielle Leslie founders of Future Dreams breast cancer support
Support awareness research

Donate to those touched by BREAST cancer

Sylvie and Danielle began Future Dreams with just £100 in 2008. They believed nobody should face breast cancer alone.  Their legacy lives on in Future Dreams House.  We couldn’t continue to fund support services for those touched by breast cancer, raise awareness of breast cancer and promote early diagnosis and advance research into secondary breast cancer without your help. Please consider partnering with us or making a donation.

Donate now