After my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, the one thing that stuck in my mind the most was “how the hell do I parent in the midst of all of this?” It felt like a struggle to even manage my own day, let alone still navigate things in a way that would allow me to properly care for my son. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. By and large, we have found a new normal, as he gets older and I process and understand more about my life with metastatic breast cancer. But some days, I still don’t know how I’m going to do it.
Currently, I’m navigating my diagnosis of brain metastases, and the thought of that terrifies me – I have to perform some pretty intense mental gymnastics in order to keep my mind out of very dark places. Last week, when I received the news, my first impulse was to basically just spend the day in bed with my head under the covers. I didn’t really want to face the world. Then I realized that I had the opportunity to interview today’s guest, and it dawned on me: who better to have the opportunity to talk to about metastatic parenting, brain mets, and the challenges of being a mom of a young kiddo and still dealing with metastatic breast cancer? Tricia Russo’s life as a parent is an incredible testament to the tricky reality of hope when living with cancer, especially metastatic cancer.
Tricia was initially diagnosed with stage 2B breast cancer in December 2011. After a year of treatment, including chemo, single mastectomy with expander, radiation, and reconstruction, she and her husband began discussing their options to start a family. Only two months after a clean scan, Trish was re-diagnosed as metastatic when metastases were discovered in her brain. She underwent brain surgery, partial brain radiation, and then stereotactic radiosurgery through 2016. While she was dealing with this diagnosis, she and her husband considered IVF as a way to start their family but were unable to do so due to Tricia’s continued treatment. In 2015 they decided to pursue family building with a surrogate/gestational carrier. They became a family of three in November 2016, when their son, Grayson, was born.
Tricia is a filmmaker, Patient Advocate, mother, and founder of The Cyan Gray Hope Foundation, a non-profit focusing on creating content to raise awareness, and ultimately funding for research, for MBC and infertility. Tricia has been living with MBC (mets to brain) since 2013 and has been NED for 6 years. She previously worked in film development for Walt Disney Motion Pictures but little did she know that her own life would become fodder for her storytelling. ‘LOVE ALWAYS, MOM’ is her award-winning documentary feature about her journey to have a child through egg donation and surrogacy after her metastatic breast cancer diagnosis. It is currently screening on the film festival circuit and there will be community screenings throughout 2019 leading up to a streaming release. Tricia served as a ‘Hear My Voice Volunteer’ for Living Beyond Breast Cancer in 2017 and runs a support group for young MBC survivors in Los Angeles. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband, screenwriter Greg Russo, and their son, Grayson. She loves taking her son on adventures, whether around Los Angeles, across the country to visit family in her home- state of New Jersey, or to film festivals and cancer conferences far and wide.
Love Always, Mom is currently on an east coast tour, with screenings in Hagerstown, MD, Millburn, NJ, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, NY, and then back to the west coast for Los Angeles, CA, Redwood City, CA screenings. You can purchase tickets or make donations through Brown Paper Tickets or through the website www.cyangray.org. As a special promotion for the Brooklyn screening for Love Always, Mom, we are giving away two tickets – stay tuned for more details at the end of the show.
Here’s where to find Tricia online: