When my Doctor told me that I had breast cancer, he said, “I’m sending you to Dr. Blau. She is like a steam roller when it comes to fighting cancer.” That was my first bit of luck. When we met her in her office, we were there till almost eight o’clock. She explained about all the different kinds of breast cancers and their treatments, ending with the worst one. Triple negative breast cancer. It sends cancer cells into the blood and travels about your body to find new places to grow. There is no cure. I have stage four triple negative breast cancer.
Chemotherapy works well for a while, but sooner or later it will quit working or the side effects get so bad that it has to be discontinued. When this happened Dr. Blau tried to get me into an experimental drug study in Seattle. It was full so I couldn’t get in. hanks to South Sound Care, the funding for the genetic study of my blood, and the administration of those experimental drugs are being given to me at Dr. Blau’s office, in Puyallup, where we live. That is so important to us. Happily, the drugs are doing so well that I’ve been pronounced “stable.” That doesn’t mean remission and I still have cancer, but it means that the tumors that I have are the same size or smaller and there are no new ones. Thank you Dr. Blau and South Sound Care.
Because I’m in Dr. Tony Blau’s study, concerning cancer cells in the blood, I get to work with Stephanie Parker. She is a research coordinator and is employed by South Sound Care. She has lots of patients that she follows, but makes me feel that I’m the only one. She goes to all my appointments with me, gets blood samples to Dr. Tony when he needs them, she makes sure my meds are up to date, and that I get all the tests that are required. When I don’t want to go get yet another test she nags me until I do. She takes the time to visit with me before I see the Doctor. Mostly I whine. When we do see the Dr. she gently reminds me of the things that I needed to ask about but have already forgotten. She submits all the data so we can learn more about this cancer and the treatment so others will benefit from it. Thanks so much Stephanie for being there for me. You’ve made this journey so much easier. And again, thank you South Sound Care for your support and caring.
But here’s why I am REALLY LUCKY: Most women who get triple negative breast cancer are much younger, women with young families. Last year, Cynthia talked about her rambunctious five-year-old son and how she had to be around a long time to keep him in line. That five-year-old boy will now have to grow up without his mother. We are all heartbroken.
I am 73 years old. Our children are grown, our grandchildren are grown. I wanted to live long enough to meet our two expected great grandchildren. I met them both this summer. I got to hold them and kiss them and make them smile. When you have cancer, it’s the little things that bring you the most joy.
I am an artist and for the last 15 years I’ve been teaching children’s art at the Fred Oldfield Center. I got the little kids because the other teachers wanted the older, more serious kids. It was perfect as I’m a little kid at heart. Our classroom is filled with noise and laughter. All children are not great at math or sports. Did you know that there are children who don’t think they are good at anything at all? I have art projects that the kids can do with flying colors. When they are happy with their artwork and they show their parents, and the parents say, “Wow! That is great!” You can see the child glow with pride and their self-esteem goes up a notch. I love seeing the smiles and I get a lot of hugs too. My new goal is to get strong enough to go back and teach a bit more, as there still are kids that need a little ego boost and I miss the children, their laughter and their hugs.
Your donations to South Sound CARE Foundation support local clinical trials like the one in which Cynthia is currently enrolled. This research provides hope for patients battling cancer in the South Sound Region and helps to improve treatments that will one day find a cure. Your donation can be mailed to South Sound CARE Foundation, P.O. Box 1314, Tacoma WA 98401-1314, or donate online at southsoundcarefoundation.org/donate. Thank you.