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Staring Down Cancer

A very happy birthday

It is with great joy that I am writing on behalf of Noreen again. Today, I am not writing because she doesn't feel well.  I am writing to give her the day off because Friday is Noreen's 60th birthday!  Read through to the end to see what you can do to help her celebrate.

A 60th birthday is a milestone to say the least, and considering the year Noreen has had, I'd say for her, it's momentous. Over the past year, Noreen has battled a rise in her tumor numbers, terrible side effects from chemotherapy, a lethal intestinal infection, a lethal jaw infection, jaw necrosis, neuropathy and severe fatigue.  But despite it all, she never wavered in her commitment to help all women in the fight against cancer.  Like a boxer in between rounds, she would shake it off – whatever "it" was at the time – to head out and continue the fight.  She is nothing short of inspirational.

I am thrilled that for her birthday, Noreen has been given the gift of feeling well.  If you have ever been sick – and I mean truly sick – for a long period of time, you appreciate what I am talking about.  Noreen has more energy than she has had in a long time, and her strength is coming back. She's enjoying life again!  It is wonderful to witness.

Noreen is too humble to admit it, but the truth is, she has her own selflessness to thank for her current state of well being.  

In 2011, Noreen pushed our board to fund preclinical research at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center that was aimed at finding a non-toxic treatment for women with triple negative breast cancer.  Noreen has always been hell-bent on discovering treatment options for triple negative patients, because it is a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer, and it disproportionately affects young women and women of African American descent. Of note, Noreen does not have triple negative breast cancer; hers is estrogen receptor positive (ER+).  Unfortunately, the preclinical research showed that the new therapy, a cdk-4/6 inhibitor, would not be effective for triple negative breast cancers. But on an upside, it was shown to be extremely effective in treating women with ER+ cancers.  

At the time, we didn't realize the professional or personal importance of the work.  Professionally, we couldn't be overly optimistic, because the research was in its earliest stages. Personally, we remained objective. There was no personal urgency because Noreen was responding well to the treatment she was on at the time.  

That all changed as the data started coming in.  The results of the research on the new inhibitor were overwhelming.  A major pharmaceutical company quickly teamed up with our doctors at UCLA to bring the new non-toxic drug to trial.  It proved so effective in treating ER+ breast cancers (which is not just significant because Noreen has it, but because it is the most common type of breast cancer) that it is now being hailed as the biggest breakthrough in breast cancer treatment in over a decade.  

Was it coincidence that the new therapy entered the Phase III trial just as Noreen's last drug regimen stopped working for her?  Who could know. I tend to think that through her own determination, Noreen willed it to be. It was her remuneration for years of dedication to raising funds for women's cancer research.  It's that therapy, that's giving her a new lease on life and allowing her to celebrate another birthday.  And soon, the new therapy will be available to all women fighting ER+ breast cancer.

When I said I am giving Noreen the day off for her birthday, that isn't totally correct.  She will still be participating in a board meeting to discuss the next grants the Noreen Fraser Foundation will be awarding.  I told you, she doesn't stop.  So, neither will I.  

For Noreen, on this momentous birthday, I am spearheading a Sixty fundraising campaign.  As a gift to Noreen for her 60th birthday, please consider giving a gift to support her mission of funding groundbreaking women's cancer research by making a donation to the Noreen Fraser Foundation.  Can you give $60?  Or how about $20.60; $10.60; or $5.60?  Help us celebrate Noreen in the way we know she would want to be celebrated!

Happy Birthday Noreen!

Michelle McBride is the President of the Noreen Fraser Foundation. To stay in touch with Noreen, please 'LIKE' The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.  Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.