34-year-old living with stage IV wants to pass on the hard truths she never knew

Patient advocate Tori Geib says, “At first, I didn’t understand the gravity of metastatic breast cancer, because I hadn’t ever heard of metastatic breast cancer." Now she's trying to make sure others are aware. (Courtesy Tori Geib)
Patient advocate Tori Geib says, “At first, I didn’t understand the gravity of metastatic breast cancer, because I hadn’t ever heard of metastatic breast cancer.” Now she’s trying to make sure others are aware. (Courtesy Tori Geib)

Over these past seven months, many people have been quelling their anxiety about the coronavirus pandemic by clinging to a belief — that this too shall pass, maybe even in a year or two. But that’s cold comfort for Tori Geib, a 34-year-old Ohioan who has been living with metastatic, or stage IV, breast cancer since 2016.

“There were things I would do before COVID, maybe pushing myself, but I was trying to get experiences — like I had gone to Europe last year and was planning to go back this year for Oktoberfest,” she tells Yahoo Life. But then it was canceled. “Not being able to go and experience what you want to experience when you know you’re on borrowed time … is a gut punch.”

Not to mention, she adds, “You hear, ‘You’re going to have a [COVID-19] vaccine in a year … but with metastatic disease, about 75 people who were diagnosed when I was won’t be alive at the five-year mark. So when I think about a year from now, or two years from now, it’s hard to think about what it will look like and if I will even be here. I had to call the airline and cancel my flight, and they said … ‘You have two years to use your ticket!’ All I could think about was, ‘Am I going to be here in two years to use it?’ That’s not something the average person would think about.”

But Geib is not your average person. At 30, right when her career as a professional chef was soaring, she was experiencing back pain that led her to see a doctor — who noticed something that no one else had from a year-old scan: lesions on her spine and a crushed vertebra. A subsequent biopsy found breast cancer and that it had already spread to her bones and liver.

Geib receiving radiation on her brain, where her breast cancer had spread, she learned, in July. (Courtesy Tori Geib)
Geib receiving radiation on her brain, where her breast cancer had spread, she learned, in July. (Courtesy Tori Geib)

“I never knew early-stage breast cancer,” she says, explaining that, as a young person, she had also never given any thought to breast cancer, let alone one that could be deadly. Her diagnosis left her in a state of shock and disbelief.

“At first, I didn’t understand the gravity of metastatic breast cancer, because I hadn’t ever heard of metastatic breast cancer,” she says, referring to breast cancer that has returned in or, in Geib’s case, spread to, another part of the body, typically an organ or bones, and is no longer seen as curable.

“You see all the success stories with the pink and the celebration, so I thought, obviously these people are OK, why would I worry about this? I didn’t know that people still die