Living with advanced breast cancer

Breast cancer

Living with advanced breast cancer

Living with ABC

Living with ABC

Living with ABC is often described as a ‘rollercoaster’. Women speak about their lives revolving around treatment plans and waiting for test results. Treatment effectiveness, whether positive or negative, can influence their uncertainty and ability to control their lives.

Uncertainty about the future provokes a wide range of emotions such as anxiety and lack of control, but many women have found ways to manage this. For some, knowing about their disease and how it is likely to be treated reduces anxiety and by learning to focus on the things they can control helps them deal with things they can’t as they arise.

There will be aspects of your situation that you can’t change, such as feeling stressed, depressed, or angry, but professional support and guidance can help.

“For me it’s stay positive, stay present, stop sweating the small stuff.”
Huia Whitinui

Physical and emotional functioning

Living with ABC also means coping with and managing multiple symptoms of the disease as well as the side effects of treatment on a day-to-day basis.

There is a general consensus that physical functioning and emotional functioning is intertwined. Women often speak of having good emotional functioning when they are without physical symptoms such as pain, fatigue or sleeplessness, and decreased emotional functioning when physical symptoms are not controlled.

Remember that your ABC pathway/experience and treatment is unique to you. It is important that you let your specialist cancer team/nurse know what your supportive care needs are (treatment, information, and support), so these can be met to improve your quality of life.

“They say get your shit together and get out of bed and move on but it’s more about recognising when you’re not feeling well and then resting.”
Huia Whitinui
Breast Cancer Foundation NZ - Ribbon

Webinars and resources

Our webinar: “Living a normal(ish) life with ABC” discusses how to cope with your diagnosis, tackle treatment, and live well with the disease.

To help with navigating the decision-making process, watch our webinar: “Decision-making in ABC” to help make the best choices for you and your family.

Further BCFNZ resources include our podcast, “Life with ABC”, which you can listen to here.

Sexuality and intimacy

Intimacy may be more difficult following a diagnosis of ABC due to lowered libido, tiredness and reduced sexual and body confidence.


A diagnosis of ABC will affect many areas of your life including the ability to get pregnant and have children.

Work and finance

For some women, concern about work and finance can potentially be one of the most worrying problems when diagnosed with ABC

Connecting with others who have advanced breast cancer

Peer support is a good way of meeting and connecting with people who are going through similar experiences to you.

Advance care planning

An advance care plan allows you the opportunity to think about what is important to you and your family

Complementary therapies

Complementary therapy aims at restoring wellbeing to your mind, emotions and spirituality as well as your physical wellbeing.


A healthy nutritionally balanced diet is recommended, including fruits and vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat, fish and poultry, dairy and water.


Light exercise can help you to establish and maintain a sense of wellbeing, and improve your quality of life.

Talking to children

The thought of explaining your diagnosis to children can be truly challenging, but using clear, simple information and involving the wider whānau can help.

Finding support when you are caring for someone with ABC

Caring for someone with ABC can be emotionally as well as physically challenging, but there are lots of supports available for you.