I met Diana Keen through our mutual work with Wildfire Magazine, and during our first conversation I felt as if I had known her for years, or at least wished I had. And while we have still never met in person, it's easy to feel her grace, compassion and resilience through the telephone line. She is the ultimate multihyphenate and gives new meaning to the word "strength." As a cancer thriver, mother, wife, friend, and founder, her impact on those in her orbit is profound. Read on for her very real insights on facing an incurable cancer while embracing all life has to offer.
When were you diagnosed with MBC? What treatment are you receiving?
On 08.08.14, at the age of 36, after giving birth to my second daughter, I received the devastating diagnosis of Stage IV Metastatic Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). IBC is a rare & aggressive form of breast cancer that isn't detectable until Stage III or IV & comes with a grim prognosis. I was Stage IV de novo, and there is no cure.
I initially fought IBC with intensive weekly chemotherapy followed by treatment every 21-days. My incredible oncology team provided continued care with radiation and chemo adjustments as IBC proved its aggressiveness over the years with metastases in the liver, brain, spine, and local recurrences. I
I have received hundreds of IV treatments on a 21-day cycle over my first 6yrs. I'm currently on a relatively new treatment which has me on multiple oral chemotherapies with 21-day injections. All to extend my days. Perhaps even long enough until there is a cure.
Diana with her husband, Noah, and daughters
Who and what has helped you most during this journey?
Each treatment brought about difficult side effects and other mental, physical & spiritual challenges that threatened my quality of life. I quickly learned I couldn't endure lifelong treatment without learning to thrive. I sought knowledge, guidance & support from others diagnosed with Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC), IBC, or other rare cancers that were thriving beyond their prognosis.
Connecting with the community, functional nutritionists, integrative doctors, cancer therapists & other wellness professionals put me on a new path of healing and empowerment. These opportunities, plus the love of family and friends that rushed to my side (and have stayed strong with me for the last seven years), renew my fortitude and grace to face constant treatment.
Undergoing treatment with a blanket friends made her
Tell us about how and why you founded Roots & Wings.
When I reached a milestone not granted to many with metastatic IBC, thriving 5 years after diagnosis, I felt a strong calling to give back to the MBC & IBC community through advocating & supporting integrative oncology support.
Integrative oncology programs are scientifically proven to provide support to patients and dramatically increase the quality of life for someone who will be in cancer treatment indefinitely. However, many of these wellness therapies are not covered by insurance which can add a significant financial burden during an already overwhelming time.
I have witnessed the need for these programs to become more accessible to others. MBC patients are facing the hardest journey of their lives & should be able to seek their best quality of life without additional struggle.
What gives you peace?
I've had to seek out many pathways to finding peace throughout the years, but there a poem by Danna Faulds, Let it Go, is something I turn to often when seeking peace with MBC.
Let it Go – By Danna Faulds
“Let go of the ways you thought life would unfold, the holding of plans or dreams or expectations – Let it all go.
Save your strength to swim with the tide.
The choice to fight what is here before you now will only result in struggle, fear, and desperate attempts to flee from the very energy you long for.
Let go. Let it all go and flow with the grace that washes through your days, whether you received it gently or with all your quills raised to defend against invaders.
Take this on faith; the mind may never find the explanations that it seeks, but you will move forward nonetheless.
Let go, and the wave’s crest will carry you to unknown shores beyond your wildest dreams or destinations.
Let it all go and find the place of rest and peace and certain transformation.”
Is there any advice that you have received that's given you comfort, confidence, or motivation?
There is no manual on how to live with incurable cancer, so seek knowledge, guidance and support, but always trust your intuition on what's right for you. Allow yourself the time and space to grieve while holding onto the beauty of life as we truly can feel grief and joy at the same time.
What advice would you give to others facing similar challenges? To others with loved ones facing similar diagnoses?
Empower and educate yourself. Every cancer journey is unique, and you need to find how to support your mind, body, and spirit. Self-care is no longer an option but a must. The following resources are all great places to start: The Society for Integrative Oncology, the Radical Remission Project, Environmental Working Group and the National Library of Medicine.
What is your greatest wish for the future?
Too many things need our greatest wishes right now; families, friends, communities, humankind, the health of the world and I could go on. Selfishly, if I had to pick only one, it would be so that incurable cancer like MBC had a cure. I wouldn't wish the constant trials and tribulations of MBC treatment on anyone.
We are honored to support Diana's foundation, Roots & Wings, fundraising event to build awareness for Metastatic Breast Cancer. Their event, Move IV MBC, is happening all across the world on August 8th. Click here to register and help raise awareness for this very special cause.
And, click here to shop Diana’s favorite Cancer Care gifts from our collection, all of which have helped her tremendously throughout her own treatment.