My ABC of living with metastatic breast cancer

Ray Cassiem has being living with metastatic breast cancer (MBC) for 11 years. She says her ABC has gotten her through it: attitude, belief and choice.

Ray Cassiem (61) lives in Cape Town with her husband. They have four sons and nine grandchildren.


I was diagnosed with Stage 3 oestrogen positive breast cancer in August 2005. My treatment consisted of a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and a selective oestrogen receptor modulator.

Four years later, in June 2009, I had my usual six-month check-up where a mammogram, X-rays, scans and blood tests were done. All were fine except my blood tumour marker; it had increased from 13 to 29 and my oncologist found it unusual. She sent me for a bone scan and a cancer lesion was discovered on my breast bone. The breast cancer had metastasised to my bones. I now had metastatic breast cancer.

I was put on an aromatase inhibitor and taken off the selective oestrogen receptor modulator. For the next two years, every month, I got an infusion of bisphosphonate to strengthen my bones. It was cut down to quarterly infusions for the following two years, then every six months and so on. I stopped the infusions last year as it was causing too much damage to my teeth and gums. I still take the aromatase inhibitor.

My ABC of metastatic breast cancer

It was a huge shock when I was told I’m metastatic and was challenging in the beginning. Now, I’ve accepted and embraced my condition. I have a good appetite, thankfully no pain, and I’m living an active life. 

I believe you need the ABC: the right attitude – surround yourself with people who add value to your life. You must believe you can beat cancer. Cancer chose me. However, I have the choice not to own it.  The three Ps are also something I live by: prayer (or good thoughts), perseverance and patience.

Obviously, I was anxious at first but with my faith and active life it became better over the years. I feared death before. Then, I was taught, at a support group meeting, that death is part of life. I accept that now. I now preach that we don’t get to choose when and how to die. But we do get to choose how we live. 

Becoming active 

Before my diagnoses, I just existed. After my initial treatment, I started living. I hiked the beautiful trails on Table Mountain. I joined a running club, first running 10km then half marathons. Becoming active has made a big difference in my life. 

I also joined the AmaBele Belles BCS Dragon Boat team. This sport reduces swelling of the arm after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. 

I changed my lifestyle by eating balanced meals in moderation and I believe in taking omega 3, zinc, vitamin B compound, vitamin C and D. 

Sharing and caring 

Last year, I retired. Now, I do lots of voluntary work for Cancer Buddies and I’m part of the Cancervive team. Sharing and caring is healing to my soul. 

Before lockdown, I gave motivational talks to educate, inspire and give hope; made pamper packs for newly diagnosed breast cancer patients; and organised support group meetings.

Financial cost of metastatic breast cancer

My medical aid doesn’t cover 100% of my medical bills as it only covers generic medication. I have had no option but to make payment arrangements to settle the accounts. 

The impact of COVID-19

All my appointments were moved to a later date. I queued at a private hospital; that has never happened before! 

Moving my appointments was nerve-wracking as I was off bone treatment and wasn’t sure if the cancer was spreading. My scans became more challenging as I didn’t know what to expect. I will be going for a scan soon and I’m positive all will be fine. 

Photo by Marike Herselman Photography |

3 Replies to “My ABC of living with metastatic breast cancer”

  1. I have a lump on my right breast and is very painful, last year march clinic had send me to hospital, and the doctor who was helping me had told me that his Machin that he was using does not want to give the report, and he take my phone on mbers and told me that he will call me that when I must come for my results, and he never call me until I go for myself and , when I ask him of the report he says he will do another tests again, I have sit on x rays room until late the following day I got sick with covid , but l today I’m still here and home with my painful breast, only God knows that what is gonna healing me

  2. Beautiful Ray!
    We need people like you to show us the way.
    Thank you for all your wonderful work.
    My blog about my cancer/covid journey is on if anyone would like to follow it.
    All the best fellow thrivers,
    Gail Gilbride Bohle

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