Both Eva Miranda Crawford and her father, City Councilman Bill Miranda, don’t see Crawford’s story as one of a cancer survivor – but rather one of a thriver.
This was a term they, and those with and affected by metastatic breast cancer, preferred at the “Met Gala” fundraiser at Porsche Santa Clarita in Valencia on Saturday night.
“This is everything to me,” said Crawford. “My two friends… passed away in 2020 from metastatic breast cancer and in 2019, the year after I was diagnosed, they had… a gala like this in Minnesota, Minneapolis, to raise money for research and she said, ‘If something happens to me, you guys better pick pick it up and keep going.’ So that’s what we’re doing. We’re gonna keep going.”
In 2018, Crawford, a co-chair of the gala, was just 41 years old and a mother of three young children when she was diagnosed with MBS. The cancer had spread to her spine, hips, liver and eventually her brain. But thanks to advances in research and medical technology, Crawford was still standing and thriving at the gala.
The event aimed to raise money for METAvivor, a nonprofit that funds MBS awareness, research and technology. MBS, otherwise known as stage four breast cancer, is when the cancer spreads from the breast to vital organs.
Crawford said more awareness to MBS specifically, and doing away with some misconceptions about it, is crucial to combating the disease.
“We’re aware of breast cancer, we’re not aware of metastatic breast cancer. So every time someone dies from breast cancer, they don’t die from [it]. You can’t die from cancer in your breast,” said Crawford. “Everyone who dies from breast cancer dies from metastatic breast cancer, meaning it has spread from the breast to vital organs that shut down because of the cancer. People say all the time that [someone] died from breast cancer. No, it’s metastatic breast cancer. So that’s the message we want to get across.”
But awareness is only part of the battle against MBS. Crawford said that only 2% to 5% of all dollars raised for breast cancer go toward MBS research and that without that research, there are fewer treatments, and without those treatments, there are more deaths.
“If we’re only concerned with awareness and pink ribbons, we will never get where we need to be, which is having less than 115 people die per day from the disease – which is where we are now,” said Crawford. “So with all the pink ribbons and all the breast cancer awareness… The number of people who die per day has not gone down… that’s why this particular organization I support and that’s why we’re doing this for them, because we know that every dollar we spend will go straight to medications and universities and institutions to find either treatments or cures for metastatic breast cancer – so that whether you’re stages zero, one, two, or three or four, you have hope and you can have a long life.”
Colleen Shaffer, founder of Circle of Hope, was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 1999, and said she has greatly outlived her expectations.
“I was told I had six months to live,” said Shaffer. “Cancer had spread from my spine, down to my liver and my liver was completely peppered with three large lesions… Every year counts. This is where birthdays really matter. Because hey, I was able to stick my tongue out, had cancer, and say, ‘Hey, I made it another year.’”
Shaffer said that since her diagnosis nearly 23 years ago, she’s become an advocate of bringing awareness to MBS, for funding research, and exposing gaps in the health insurance system that she said disproportionately takes the lives of those whose insurance coverage allows unchecked cancer to metastasize and bankrupts those who cannot afford the expensive treatments and tests needed to combat and prevent it.
“I can tell you the difference in insurance, it makes a big difference in how they’re being treated. So, again, I fight. I let them know, awareness is half the battle and I’ve been fighting this battle for so long, I can tell you that I know what questions to ask, I know when to challenge, when not to,” said Shaffer. “That’s why I’m here: because they don’t realize that someone has made it past what they have done the last couple of years. If one person could do it, there’s always a chance for someone else. I created a road.”
Miranda said he was extremely proud of his daughter and the work she’s done.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am,” said Miranda. “So I’m going to say a few words, somewhere in the meeting and it should be hard to get it together.”
Miranda said the goal is to have the event become annual, so that more funds can be raised in an effort to save more lives.