Barbara Bigelow is a force in the world of breast cancer. Cancer has been apart of her life for twenty years. She was originally diagnosed with early stage breast cancer and entered treatment. What proved to be even more shocking was that in her first year of treatment, her two sisters were diagnosed with breast cancer. Sadly, one sister passed away of metastatic breast cancer.
Barbara, however fought her way into recovery and was in remission for 13 years. It was back pain that led to a doctors visit and MRI that revealed a tumor. That discovery would lead to her kidney being taken out and this time cancer came back with a force as triple negative metastatic breast cancer. Doctors gave Barbara 24-36 months to live. She decided to join a clinical trial and while it ravaged her body- at one point being put into an induced coma with a less than 10% chance of survival- it also proved to be extremely successful. Barbara has had no evidence of cancer for six years.
In many ways a walking miracle, Barbara is quick to acknowledge how the long term effects of the treatments still impact her. She has permanent adrenal damage and will be on steroid treatment for life. She also has balance issues, but overall she is grateful to have participated in the clinical trial: “while it is a risk you will have permanent damage to your body, you can greatly improve research for everyone by partaking in trials.”
Though cancer free, Barbara is quick to add “right now, who knows how long that will last.” Indeed, her warrior spirit hasn’t just been tested by breast cancer. She has had bouts with melanoma and lung cancer. All of these experiences has led her to be the ultimate patient advocate. She travels across the country addressing audiences about her journey: “I try to inspire people.” Indeed, her own experience has led her to become the Vice President of METAvivor, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of advanced breast cancer and equity in research and patient support. This past year alone, the organization raised $4.1M, awarded to 32 research grants.
Barbara is most excited to take to the runway because she is determined to also find the fun and celebration amongst her story. We have no doubt her strength and poise will blow the audience away this fall and continue to rewrite the narrative of what metastatic breast cancer looks like.