The siege is over, and I did not wave the white flag! I spent one full week in bed, fighting the side effects of Abraxane and Neupogen, which is a drug that squeezes white blood cells out of your bone marrow. For me, this drug was the culprit of my worst symptoms.
I had already finished three rounds of Abraxane, and although this chemo has side effects, they were tolerable with pain killers. Three bad days and four good days seemed "fair" enough, but when my white blood cell count fell to a two, the doctor felt I needed this additional drug.
It worked, my white count is on the high side of normal, but I will not take it again. The bone pain was unbearable.
I am seeing the world’s most gifted acupuncturist, Dr. Mao, and he has had tremendous success in raising the white blood count for cancer patients. I know he will make a difference.
Last week, I ran a fever of 102 and was taken to the hospital for blood transfusions after my red blood cell count dropped. I also developed a mouth full of sores and groaned daily with extreme bone pain. Pain is really scary, and I must admit I had more than my share of meltdowns. It's the fear that it's not going to go away.
But then it does. It was a 10-day siege. Now it's over, and strangely enough, I feel fine. This week, I just need to walk and eat and get stronger, and then it's back to Abraxane. I will win this fight and I will kick cancer on its ass.
How does anyone get through these scattered weeks of horror? The only way is love, prayer and a lot of help from family and friends. My husband stayed home from work for 12 days. My girlfriends made a chart and chose days to bring food—breakfast, lunch and dinner—even though I could barely eat. Girlfriends from far away sent scarves and earrings.
I had an open door policy. All of my friends could come in the house at any time and peek into my bedroom to see if I was awake. I was always in a reclined position, but if my eyes were open they would whisper, "can I get you anything?” I'd usually shake my head, “No.” They would stroke my head, or rub my hands, kiss my forehead and then quietly leave.
My special girlfriend, Noreen—yes, another Noreen—came every day and put fresh flowers on my dresser so that when I could sit up, I would see beauty. It's almost too much to believe that I have been blessed with my girls. Then, there's my family clamoring to get their turn to fly out and be with me. My sister Cooper just flew in from Atlanta, my Dad arrives tomorrow, and my other sister and brother, Bridget and Patrick (who live in Los Angeles) have come to see me every day.
This is what buoys me up and helps me get through this fight. There are so many of us fighting this fight. One in every two men will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, and one in every three women. Is that not staggering? Can you imagine if we all joined together as a group and advocated for something we all wanted? We are an undeniable force! We alone could create a third political party or a lobbying group.
We need to work together like the AIDS community did. They made noise and got government money, and now AIDS is a disease that can be managed with drugs. That is my vision for cancer. A disease you can live with and not die from.
We can do this if we stop donating money to many different groups and get behind one non-profit that has vision, that knows which researchers are on-target, and will use the money wisely. A non-profit that is transparent and tells you exactly who received a grant, what amount was funded, and then follows how the money is spent. That would be the Noreen Fraser Foundation. We are committed, and we will make a difference!
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. For more information: go to noreenfraserfoundation.org. Noreen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @noreenfraser.