While Shirley Mertz has great compassion for anyone who has gone through and survived a breast cancer diagnosis, as she thought she did in 1991, Shirley’s passion and focus as a breast cancer activist is to be a voice for the needs of those who today are suffering with advanced or Stage IV breast cancer and those who one day will receive such a diagnosis. As a patient who has received treatment for the last eight years for Stage IV or metastatic disease, Shirley volunteers with important organizations to make finding the answers to what causes cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body a priority for scientists, clinicians and policy makers.
In her professional life, Shirley Mertz was the principal of a high school nationally recognized for excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and Newsweek. When she received her metastatic diagnosis, she retired two years later and used her speaking, writing and organizing skills as an educator and a trained lawyer, to advocate on behalf of Stage IV patients whose life expectancy has not changed much since1975 despite billions of dollars of research. She empowered herself by graduating from courses in the biology of breast cancer, clinical trials and quality health care offered by the National Breast Cancer Coalition (NBCC). She serves as a consumer reviewer for the DOD Breast Cancer Research Program; Chair of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Patient Advocate Subcommittee of the Translational Breast Cancer Research Consortium; Chair of the Advocate Advisory Committee for the University of Chicago SPORE; Board Member of the Metastatic Breast Cancer Network; the Illinois Field Coordinator for NBCC; and a team member of the Prevention of Metastasis Summit for NBCC’s Breast Cancer Deadline 2020.
Shirley Mertz has spoken out about the need for research to find the causes of metastasis at the ERA of Hope 2011 Conference, National Metastatic Breast Cancer Conferences and to Congressional leaders in Washington. Shirley’s focused mission is to use her voice to represent the needs of those who currently have advanced disease and to urge researchers to make finding the causes of metastasis a priority so that no individual will receive such a diagnosis in the future.