Staring Down Cancer

When the fight isn't fair: Why losing to cancer isn’t a real failure


Last week I read an editorial written by a woman with Stage 4 breast cancer, the only type of breast cancer that kills.

The op ed was published after Laurie Becklund had passed a few weeks ago.  It was interesting to me because at the time of reading it I was nodding my head in agreement with all she had to say. It kept popping into my mind over the following few days, during which I was bothered by something she had written: "The medical establishment tells me I have failed a number of therapies. That's not right: The establishment and its therapies have failed me."

I wonder who Laurie’s doctors were—the people who pushed the idea of "failure" on her? None of us have failed the fight. The fight was never fair! It's a roll of the dice.

I have always seen cancer as a terrible, deadly monster that needs to be continually smacked-back like the game "Whack-a-Mole." Some of us just live longer whacking than others.

Cancer is smart, and that's what makes it so deadly. Once it has moved into your bloodstream— now Stage 4 metastatic— it is continually looking for a way to get around the drugs you are taking and attach itself to your bones, liver, lungs or brain. I believe that we are finally on a trajectory of discovering new drugs and targeted therapies that can turn cancer into a chronic disease, one we can live with and not die from. I have blogged about the new drug palbociclib (Ibrance), which was fast-tracked and given the FDA go-ahead in the past few weeks for women with advanced metastatic disease.

Laurie does make a critical point about metastatic cancer, and, after reading it, I have decided to double my efforts and focus on this. "There is no comprehensive data base of breast cancer patients, their characteristics and what treatments did and did not help them." We need to create such a database for cancer patients.

I know the World Health Organization (WHO) does have a worldwide population-based cancer registry that collects data, but I will have to look more deeply into this. I will check with my sources to see where we are on a metastatic breast cancer database. We must have one.
There are so many of us riding in the same boat, knowing we will die from this disease but not knowing when. It's not easy to know the Grim Reaper is nipping at your heels. When will the other shoe drop? We don't know.  

What I do know is that research is where it's at. We must continue to find new drugs that can keep us one step ahead of this hideous disease. Working for that cause may be the reason I am still alive.  

Rest in peace, Laurie Becklund.  

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women's cancer research. 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