“Moon Shot” against cancer

The front-page of The Houston Chronicle today has some very exciting news. The headline reads “$3 billion aimed at tough cancers.”

This got my attention.

The famed MD Anderson right here in my lovely city is going after 8 of the deadliest, most difficult cancers, and has most definitely put its money where its mouth is. By sending $3 bil straight to the front lines, Anderson isn’t playing around. The 8 cancers on Anderson’s radar are lung cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, melanoma, Acute lyeloid leukemia (AML), Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Myelodysplastic syndrome, and triple-negative breast cancer. The newspaper article has this handy graphic that highlights the most pressing deets about the 8 cancers under seige.

The latter really got my attention, as all BC news does. What is triple-negative breast cancer, you might ask? It’s a particularly wily form of the dreaded disease that displays negative properties for estrogen- and progesteron reception as well as HER2 reception. Read a more detailed definition here,but suffice to say that this type of BC doesn’t respond to hormones, making it harder to treat.

mdanderson.org

This news is so hopeful in a landscape of cancer. A veritable ray of sunshine, the Moon Shots program has tons of potential and will surely make the kind of inroads to the “war of cancer” that President Nixon declared way back in 1971 and that has yet to come to fruition. The so-called war is almost as old as I am, and yet we see newly diagnosed cases and deaths from cancer in such shockingly high numbers. Bring on the Moon Shots program!

I have a lot more to say about this program, and will return to it after I finish my to-do list left to me by my favorite girl, who has been hard at work planning a first birthday party for her little piggie. Yes, you read that right: a party for a pig.

I’ll leave you with a quote about the Moon Shots program that has me smiling big this morning:

“In almost every disease, we have an example of something that works. Once you have a first step, it’s easier to take the second, the third.” – Gordon Mills, head of systems biology, MD Anderson

Here’s to giant steps being made toward these 8 deadly cancers. Three cheers for MDA!


BC claims a two-fer

The icy grip of death got a two-fer yesterday. The world lost not one but two beautiful souls and because of this vicoious disease known as breast cancer, two important voices in the blog-o-sphere are forever silenced. Rachel Moro Cheetham, better known as Rach from the Cancer Culture Chronicles, and Susan Niebur of toddlerplanet both died yesterday. Rachel was the one who enlightened me to the appalling statistics that exist in the financials of the Susan G. Komen “For the Cure” organization [emphasis mine]. Rach is gone, but her tell-all pie chart will live on. Susan was an astrophysicist with NASA and mom to a 4- and 6-year-old boy who fought inflammatory breast cancer in her spare time. She compiled a list of science-related links, for kids and adults, on her blog full of science, parenting, and “the joy of life after cancer” that will no doubt become part of her legacy.

Rachel and Susan are beautiful examples of the pioneers in BC blogging. They blazed a trail and lit the way for newbies like me. They challenged and questioned and refused to wrap themselves in pink ribbons. They inspired me. By setting such a stalwart example, they encouraged me to do the same.

I’m not alone in my admiration for and my grief over these two women. A few blurbs from the BC world about them:

“Pretending that the pain isn’t here would be a disservice to the raw honesty of their voices.”

“I am stepping up to be a fearless & rebel friend. We need to keep their voices strong & heard by many.”

“If I could dim the lights on my blog, I would. We all took a big hit today.”

“I feel more resolve to stir the hornet’s nest.”

“CRAP CRAP CRAP.”

“Talk about hopes, dreams, plans, fears–then get out and live the life in front of you.”

“We will mourn and we will be sad and then we will become a FORCE that will not be turned back.”

Powerful words that befit powerful women.

When I created this little blog, it was initially to keep those closest to me informed of the steps and stages in my cancer “journey.” The plot thickened, however, and that “journey” became more perilous. A mysterious post-mastectomy infection, a month’s worth of hospitalizations that spanned the summer and three different hospitals in my great city, multiple surgeries to contain the scope of the infection’s destruction, two infectious disease teams, countless bags of antibiotics–both in the hospital and at home, and 267 days of oral abx gave me a lot on which to report.

Then came the harrowing process known as reconstruction. Thanks to the infection, nothing was simple, and what should be the final stage of the BC “journey” was anything but. Two revisions later, there’s still work to be done, and I’ve got many miles to go before I sleep. This little blog went from “Hey y’all, here’s what’s happening” to “y’all aren’t gonna believe this,” and in the process, this little blog morphed from a news bulletin to some serious therapy for its author and creator. Without the outlet that is publishing my most pressing thoughts, I could possibly be staring through the peephole of a padded cell instead of pounding out my latest missive on my iPad in the comforts of home.

I knew when I started this little blog that I would learn from my fellow BC bloggers, but I didn’t know I’d learn so much about this vicious disease that, for a time, took over my life and that has forever changed my life. As I put myself out there in the blogosphere and in the twitterverse, I found more and more blogs written by women like me–everyday gals from all walks of life in all corners of the globe confronting a nasty beast while also maintaining a career, running a household, and/or raising children. I’ve gotten to “know” some incredible women whose writings have educated, humbled, enlightened, and entertained me. Somewhere along the way, in between the updates and follow-ups that become the fabric of a cancer patient’s life, we became friends. United in our commonality of being members of a club we never wanted to join, we bond over blogs. We hold our breath as our blog friends report the news of the ever-ominous follow-up scans, willing it to be NED (no evidence of disease) news. We wake to the words on the screen written by fellow foot soldiers in this wrenching war. We cheer aloud in front of glowing computer screens late at night when there’s news of a final radiation session, and get teary-eyed  as we envision our blog friend ringing the bell in the infusion suite to signify the completion of chemo. We nod our heads in tacit understanding of the trials & tribulations that are a cancerchick’s life. We lean on each other and support each other, hopefully in equal measure.

In the throes of my cancer “battle,” I had a hard time reading the blogs of the cancerchicks who were battling MBC, the acronym for metastatic breast cancer. I shied away from those blogs because they were living the life that scared me the most. See, in my naivete, I wanted to believe that a cancer diagnosis at age 40 was the worst thing I’d ever endure (even thought I knew that facing the death of sweet mama was a million times harder). I wanted to believe that my cancer was the good kind, the easy kind, the kind that would never come back, even though in my heart of hearts I fear that it’s only a matter of time. In the beginning, I read the BC blogs from the outside, looking in, but before long, I became one of them. Like Rachel preaching the deception of SGK and dreaming of escaping from it all in a red karmann ghia, and like Susan arguing with her oncologist and imploring him to discharge her from the hospital after too many days away from her precious kiddos, I became one of them. They led by example and encouraged me to widen my sphere of influence. They were like rock stars in the blogging world — I looked up to them. Like getting an autograph from an admired celeb, a comment from them on one of my posts on my little blog was a thrilling keepsake. That their comments are no more fills me with great sadness. Thinking about those they leave behind — Rachel’s scruffy little dog, Susan’s sweet little boys — sears my heart.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Do not go where path may lead, go instead where there is no path & leave a trail”  Rachel and Susan, you have my heartfelt thanks for leaving a trail.