I am a 57-year-old mother of two almost-grown children, and I have been living with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer since 2003.
I’ve had breast cancer since 2001, but it has recurred twice—the first time in my bones and just last month to my liver. My doctors would say I am the perfect model for the future of cancer. I have managed to stay alive with incurable cancer for 10 years thanks to my doctors and my body’s ability to keep my cancer at bay with estrogen blockers.
With the diagnosis came the realization that I might not be around much longer. I could not imagine leaving my children, who were 8 and 10 at the time. I had a lumpectomy, six weeks of radiation, and took a daily dose of the estrogen blocker, tamoxifen.
Two years later, my cancer moved into my bones, which made it metastatic or incurable. Now, that was something I never expected. What was even more unexpected was the news that if I was lucky, I could live maybe five years. I was devastated.
That meant I would never see my kids graduate from high school.
I became very depressed, bordering on suicidal, and I needed to be put on antidepressant medication. I was in a stupor for about six months. I felt hopeless and trapped. I did not think there was anything I could do to change my circumstances.
But I woke up one morning and said to myself, “I may go under, but I will fight for my daughter so she will never have to hear the words ‘you have cancer.’” It was at that moment that I realized I did have the tools to do something—I am a television producer. I can do an annual telethon to raise money for research—and that is how STAND UP TO CANCER was born. With the help of six women and three network television stations, we produced a show that raised $100 million for cancer research. The projects we funded are beginning to produce results.
Two years ago I turned my attention to my own foundation so I could concentrate on women’s cancers. Because of the advances science has made in the past three years, many cancers can and will be turned into a “chronic disease” that one can live with instead of die from.
The Noreen Fraser Foundation is funding groundbreaking research in the field of women’s cancers. One of the projects we funded at UCLA will be introducing a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy in clinical trials. We have also funded work on a blood test that can detect ovarian cancer. At the University of Chicago, we have funded a tumor bank to classify samples of triple negative breast cancer, which attacks very young women.
Staying on the cutting-edge of cancer research is what is keeping me alive—and I know that my daughter will have more than a fighting chance against this monster killer.
Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She co-produced the TV show STAND UP TO CANCER, 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 papsmear. Noreen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.