Real stories performed by actors.

Story From Rachel | Performance by Adelaide Mestre

Real stories performed by actors.


Performances inspired by real stories of women with metastatic breast cancer, told through artistic expression.


Hey. When I was first diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the first question I asked my doctor was, "Can I still work?"

WORK. I didn’t ask about my ability to have kids? I didn’t ask enough questions to learn that I was going to have to be on drugs for the rest of my life? No. I asked about WORK.

I was so close to tenure. It was all I could think about. But I thought, if my committee knows that I have metastatic cancer, I’ll never get tenure. I took just two days off from teaching, started my chemo and I worked hard to hide the illness.

I became a master of disguise, hiding behind hats and makeup. My nurses would say to me, "Your students must be so inspired by you," and I said, "No, they don’t even know I have cancer. No one does."

I got my tenure. And I kept working relentlessly. No reason to stop. If I stopped, I’d have to deal with the terror of it all—the hum of that cancer monster stalking me. Can you hear it? Coming from inside me?

I hated the idea of being reduced to, "She was so great until she got breast cancer." So, I was there one hundred and ten percent for students, I worked and worked, I wrote and wrote and wrote.

I’ve written books. I have changed my students’ lives. But what was lost in the process? Twelve years in, and the cancer’s still here.

I was grading papers when it hit me hard. There I was, sick with cancer, working into the night so my students could get their midterms back before their spring break. Before they go on vacation, get drunk, and run around on a beach. And it occurred to me: I’m not going on any beach. I got so angry that I could hardly see. There are still so many appointments. I can’t get a break.

I don’t have to do this. I could go out on a date, travel, sit on the couch and veg. So I would publish one less article. So there would be one more undergrad pissed off at me. Get in line. I matter the most here.

How much time do I have? I don’t know. Another twelve years, twelve months — twelve days? Whatever the time, that time is mine, and I’m using it. It’s my story to write.


mBC Unspoken. A voice given. A story heard.


GILEAD and the GILEAD logo are trademarks of Gilead Sciences, Inc., or its related companies.
All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

© 2023 Gilead Sciences, Inc. All rights reserved. US-UNBC-1182 03/23

Up Next

Watch: Dying to Talk

When you’re facing your biggest fear and you want to talk about it but everyone—including your therapist—wants to avoid the conversation, what do you do? Regina searches for the right place and the right time to talk about what’s on her mind, but she faces scared and unwilling loved ones in this monologue.

Story performed by Joan Coombs.