The reason I exist today is that I am not willing to go down until we turn cancer into a chronic disease. A disease we can live with and not die from. What about the cure? I frankly don't care about the cure. It may come some day, but not today. We need to put the cure on the back burner for now—and realize that all we really have right now is early detection (your No. 1 chance for survival), and discovering new drugs that will push back the cancer by keeping it in a controlled state. That's the deal. That's my plan. Get on board!
Nothing could have been more exciting for me this week than attending the red carpet premiere of the Lifetime movie “Five.” The Noreen Fraser Foundation was honored to partner with Lifetime by getting the word out about this movie, and of course, about breast cancer. Do not leave home on Monday, October 10. If you do, be home by 9 p.m. EST.
You must see this movie, which covers the lives of five women with breast cancer. Jennifer Aniston and her business partner, Kristen Hahn, were the executive producers. They were spot-on about what an entire family goes through when a loved one hears those horrible words, "You have breast cancer.” The movie is five vignettes directed each by a different woman. Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore, Alicia Keys, Penelope Spheeris and Patty Jenkins—women who have just proved that they "get it," and that they can speak for those of us who have in any way been confronted by this disease. It was a cathartic experience for me. I am so grateful when a story can really tell the truth about the emotions we face as survivors. The more we understand, the harder we will work. We survivors are 2.5 million strong in the United States, and we have to figure out how to come together and work as one. Winning is all about collaboration. Give that some thought as we head into October and a sea of pink ribbons.
How have our attitudes changed emotionally, intellectually, since the day we put a man on the moon? The movie begins with extended family members gathered to watch the lunar landing and hover around the bedroom of their loved one dying with breast cancer. No one wants to use the word "breast" as they gather around the kitchen table trying to piece together a eulogy. It is distressing to see the 5-year-old daughter denied at every turn, by every family member as she tries to get in to see her mom. All anyone will tell her is that her mom is resting and she is not allowed to disturb her. She watches as the doctor goes in and out of the room, the the preacher, family members, friends, but no, not her. She is being "protected" from this horror. I shudder when I think about growing up in the 1950s and 1960s where children were meant to be seen and not heard. I hope none of us are treating our children that way today. Children need to be part of the discussion.They need to be talked to and listened to. How that is done is up to the family, but they should always be included in an age- appropriate way.
Then the science. Hey, we can be mad at Richard Nixon for announcing a war on cancer and producing no results, but although he made a lot of mistakes, pretty big ones, we can't pin the lack of breakthroughs on him. The science simply was not there. The biggest achievement in science came in the 1970s when Dr. Jerome Groupman found a way to cut off the blood supply to a tumor, which would starve it to death. Unfortunately, he was laughed at by the scientific community. And now, here we are in the 21st century and his idea, angiogenesis, is now accepted and is saving lives. I had the honor of meeting him during the process of creating Stand Up To Cancer. He is sadly gone, but will be remembered as one of the great minds of cancer.
Where are we today? We are on the cusp. The tumblers are aligned and we are close to opening the safe. Why? Scientific advances in genomics and molecular biology. We now understand that breast cancer is not one disease, it is seven separate diseases and cannot be treated in the one-size-fits-all model. With scientists coming on board with the translational model, they will now be using this new basic understanding to get this science and therapies to the bedside more quickly. I urge everyone to read The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. If you can imagine a history of cancer that reads like a novel (I know, it sounds impossible) this is it. You will be happy you did.
To find out more about the geniuses behind the movie “Five,” click here.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org