It’s one thing to raise money for cancer, but it’s quite another to figure out how the money is being spent or wasted.
During the time when I was trying to make sense of my diagnosis, I had a disturbing thought. What about all those “walks” for breast cancer? What about all the money I poured into those organizations over the past 20 years?
Where’s my payback? Would it be the drug that would make this all go away?
For years, there has been no transparency, no accountability and no collaboration. Scientists and universities had their eye on the prize – The Nobel prize that is, and so they worked very secretively in silos, never sharing any of the advances they discovered.
That is why I chose UCLA and my doctors, Dr. John Glaspy and Dr. Dennis Slamon. At the time, UCLA was one of the few universities sharing the information. The colon cancer scientists worked right next to the pancreatic scientists and so on. When one drug turned out to be a dead end for a certain cancer, they would walk it across the hall to let the breast cancer researchers have a go at it. In fact, a promising new drug for breast cancer failed in trials and was turned over to colon cancer and is now the state of the art drug for colon cancer patients.
Recently, we had a board meeting for The Noreen Fraser Foundation. Dr. Glaspy presented a power point presentation on exactly how the NFF money was being used, the advances made to date because of our money and the breakthrough drug they hope to have ready for clinical trials this year. This drug would be for breast cancer patients. It is a non-toxic drug that will replace certain chemo drugs.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to know exactly how all of your hard work is paying off. As Dr. Glaspy said to our group, “fighting cancer is a team effort. Activists and patients committed to change and expand the research agenda is exactly what the field of cancer needs.” And he’s right.
Friday is my day of reckoning. I will have a PET scan to see if the toxic chemo I have been taking for eight weeks has made a difference in the size of the tumors in my liver. If it has, I will continue on with this regimen of Xeloda and try to deal with the side effects.
My hands are beet red, swollen and blistered. The bottom of my feet are red hot, and with every step I take, I feel like I am walking over hot coals. I lather up every night with cream and wear socks and gloves to bed. Very sexy! The good news is that this chemo does not make your hair fall out and my hair has never looked better – from the boobs up, I look pretty darn hot!
Time is of the essence for those of us waiting for the development of new non-toxic treatments. The government money has dried up for cancer research and the economic climate has affected foundation giving to cancer research. It comes down once again to the commitment of individuals. We can make a difference – and we will.
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.