I've been down and out the last few weeks, but I am now coming up for air. I had the honor of being the keynote closing speaker at the Global Breast Cancer Conference 2011 in Seoul, Korea. It was a magnificent experience. There are only a few things I like more than hardcore research. Laughing is one. The second is amazing presentations from researchers and doctors from all over the world. More about that later.
I landed after a 14-hour flight and went straight to bed. Five hours later, I received a call from my oncologist’s assistant telling me that Dr. Glaspy needs to see me right away. I was so jet lagged and confused and exhausted that I told her there was no way I could come in "right now." I told her I would come in that afternoon. Then, the adrenaline rush. Now, there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. FYI, your oncologist calling you at home is never a good thing. He laughs when I lovingly call him the grim reaper. Thank God my husband was home.
I threw on some clothes and drove to UCLA. When we walked into his office, he was standing at attention and said, "Number one, you are not going to die. (This guy totally gets me). Number two, the chemo you are on is not working, and the tumors in your liver are growing. Number three, I've worked out a plan that will work." So I took a deep breath and held my husband’s hand and tried to listen. So the plan is to combine a new drug that just came off a trial and performed quite well--affintor with aromisin for three weeks. I will have my blood drawn each week to see if my tumor markers continue to climb or stabilize. If this doesn't work, then it's off to IV chemo and you know what that means…
My entire mouth is filled with open sores, and I can only handle liquids. The sores are similar to canker sores, but deeper and more painful. It hurts to talk. Cancer is diabolical. It keeps working its way around the medicines, causing you to take a stronger drug to head it off. I want to say – and I hope I'm right – you picked yourself a stealth adversary and I will fight you to
the finish. Your finish, not mine!
It's just exhausting. A constant readjustment.
When I was in Korea speaking to survivors, I posed a question to them: "Can I see a show of hands from everyone in this room who is angry?" I know when I tell you there were no hands in the air, you will say that it's cultural, but I say, that digging deep to really feel the emotion inside you is too scary for most people. I really feel anger is our friend. Information and anger, these are our friends. People give money to a charity and then dust off their hands and think something good will come from it. Why won't survivors dig deep? If you support a cancer organization, get on the Web and find out what they are doing with your money. If you're not happy, find a better organization.
We have to stop talking about the cure and start talking about finding new drugs that will keep patients alive. The goal must be to make cancer a chronic disease we can live with and not die from.
I would like to know, from those of you who are reading this blog, are you angry? Are you willing to take to the streets like those citizens angry about the greed of Wall Street..or the Tea Party? Whatever your beliefs, step out of yourself, and make your anger known.
Our government is slashing financial support for cancer research. Hey, I get that; some things have to go to balance the budget, but cancer research? One out of every two men will get cancer, and one out of every three women will get cancer in their lifetime. And with baby boomers being the largest contingency, we are heading for a national disaster. I would love to see cancer survivors unite as one group – we have enough to become a party of our own – Democrats, Republicans, Independents and ‘Cancercrats!’ If we united, no one could stop us.
On a lighter note, we've got some great initiatives running through the holidays. Threadless, a social t-shirt design network, has launched a challenge to see which of their talented artists can design the best shirt for our Men for Women Now initiative. The best design will be produced on tees, and a percentage of sales will benefit women's cancer research via the Noreen Fraser Foundation. Check out the submissions – or craft your own – via the Threadless site! The pink pears from Harry and David are continuing to be a big hit this year as well, with 20 percent from each sale benefiting the Foundation. Find them at www.noreenfraserfoundation.org.
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is co-founder of STAND UP TO CANCER and co-produced the TV show, which raised 100 million dollars for cancer research. Noreen went on to create the Noreen Fraser Foundation to raise money and awareness for women's cancer research. The 'Men for Women Now' program enlists men to ask the women they love to make appointments for their mammogram and pap smear. Noreen can be reached at email@example.com