Hope and motivation amid metastatic breast cancer

Eva Crawford stands with her children Hudson, 8, Layla, 6, and Tucker, 10 (from left to right). October 19, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

They call it the sleeping bear. To the three Crawford kids, each of ages 10 and younger, their mother, Eva, has a condition that’s best when it lays low and when it wakes up its all hands on deck to put it back to rest. 

“My husband told them, ‘Mommy has cancer, so that means we’ll have someone come help us with the chores while mommy rests,’” said Eva. “We said that it’s like a bear and, right now, the cancer is sleeping; and if it tries to wake up at any time, we try to put the bear to sleep again.” 

Eva, the daughter of Santa Clarita City Councilman Bill Miranda, grew up locally and later relocated to Ventura County. She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer in late July 2018. She and her family were in New York when she received the news. 

“Our trip had to stop in the middle because of the call so we rushed back home to UCLA and I thought that I had stage 2 breast cancer,” said Eva. “And a few days later when we did a test they found innumerable tumors all up and down my spine, my hip, my bones, all over the place. I was immediately moved to stage 4.” 

Metastatic breast cancer is one that has spread beyond the breasts and nearby lymph nodes to other parts of the body, most commonly to the bones, lives, lungs and the brain, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Stage 4 is currently considered incurable, and its three to five-year survival for metastatic breast cancer is about 28%, according to the National Cancer Institute. And while there is no cure, treatments can, for months at a time, keep the cancer under control — or, as the Crawfords say, keep the bear asleep. 

Life with metastatic breast cancer slowed down significantly for Eva, she said. 

“When I was initially diagnosed, I had trauma in my left hip and I had to go into surgery right away because it was about to break,” she said. “So, I went and got a rod placed into my left hip and that was my introduction to metastatic breast cancer. At that time, I slowed down.” 

That’s when physical therapists frequented the Crawford household to provide palliative care, a new life, with no end in sight, Eva and the family had to adjust. 

“I was very shocked,” she said. “I was just devastated at the thought of not being able to raise my kids and live a long, healthy life because before this, I was running, I was biking, hiking and doing lots of yoga. I was very active and very healthy. So, I didn’t expect to go from that to a terminal illness.” 

Despite the changes and the challenges, Eva knew she wanted more out of her new journey. 

“I knew before I got diagnosed that I wanted to make a documentary,” she said. “For me, it’s so important to look at the journey from the lens of people that are interested in knowing how you’re doing. I put myself in other people’s shoes and think, ‘If one of my friends were going through terminal cancer, I would want to know exactly what that friend is going through. How do they feel? How do they look? How do they feel on the inside?”

In partnering with a friend Vinny Randazzo, a four-time Emmy Award-winning producer and documentary director, “Eva’s Journey” was born.

The project currently has footage from the past two years, documenting Eva’s surgeries and treatments, how the family’s life has changed and her support system, as well as interviews with other cancer patients. 

“My husband is my rock, he’s so strong. My parents and friends have also been extremely supportive and these two years capture that,” she said. 

Bringing a documentary about her journey is a “dream come true,” said Eva. 

“f I can use this experience and the platform I was given to encourage and bring light to my fellow fighters, their loved ones and mine — through sharing, I feel a higher purpose to my days,” she said in a statement on her GoFundMe page, which has collected more than $9,500 to cover for the production and completion of the film. 

Eva said she and her team would like to finish the project within the next two years. “But it’s not just, ‘How do I do those two years?’” she said. “But, ‘Can I survive the average life span?’”

Her journey is much more than just survival, she said. It’s about inspiring, spreading hope and educating others — something her parents have been vocal about. 

Earlier in October, Miranda shared a video before the City Council about his daughter’s journey for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and urged the community to get involved in awareness efforts. 

“While money is donated each October for breast cancer research, much needs to be done to understand, treat and reduce cases of this disease,” he said. “Education for everyone, as well as access to vital services and resources will help our society in the fight against breast cancer.”

For Eva, her children are her biggest motivation and through her journey, she hopes people can find their passions and motivations to help them push through their challenges. 

“I’ve never quit a job in my life, and I’m not going to quit now. Raising them is the most important thing I have, and I hope to see them get into college and choose their professions. I hope that anyone watching the documentary, that if they have a goal to travel and if I give them hope then I did my job.” 

To learn and to donate, visit evasjourney.org

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