When my oncologist asked me if I would consider being in a clinical trial, my answer was immediate.
In July 2011 Barbara Carlos was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. A resident of Hawaii, she works in administrative support at a college and has retirement as her career goal. Music keeps her sane, as side effects of chemo and radiation linger. Overweight since childhood, she keeps trying to lose the estrogen-laden fat that her cancer loves.
During my first appointment with my oncologist, she asked me if I would consider participating in a clinical trial. My response came from the gut and it was immediate. I didn’t have to think about it. I said yes.
We’ve all heard of clinical trials, but what are they really?
The National Cancer Institute explains that clinical trials are research studies looking for ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer, and manage its symptoms and side effects.
Cool. I admit to being a little bit of a nerd, so the idea of being part of a scientific endeavor appealed to me. I also wanted to do my bit to slay the dragon. None of us get out of here alive. At that point, I wasn’t entirely sure that cancer wasn’t going to kill me, but if it did I wanted to go down swinging. Participating in a study that might not provide any definitive answers was fine with me because I thought it just might lead to even more questions about how to deal with cancer that other researchers could follow up on.
I didn’t know how this was going to work. I knew that I would be receiving a standard of care and that I would be monitored. The oncologist explained the basics of the study and reviewed the disclosure paperwork. I was sent home to read it all in detail. When we met again a few days later, I asked some questions about the protocol. I remained comfortable with my initial decision. One of oncology nurses then asked me a lot of medical questions. Arrangements were made for some more tests. The clinical trial paperwork was completed and signed. My case went off for randomization and my first chemo cocktail was scheduled for the following week.
Before I left the office, my oncologist thanked me for participating in the clinical trial. She told me it had been difficult to get women to participate. I was puzzled and asked why that was. She wasn’t sure. The thought crossed my mind that maybe they were too overwhelmed with processing their cancer diagnosis to think about anything beyond that. I told her I didn’t understand why others wouldn’t consider it because if other women hadn’t enrolled in clinical trials 20 years earlier, what kind of choices would I have now?
I have two nieces, both in their 30s. Between them and my nephews, the next generation is only boys so far, but I have hopes for a girl the family in the next few years. And I hope that my clinical trial will provide a tiny piece of the puzzle that is cancer for my nieces and the girls of the next generation, should any of them become the one woman in eight who receives a breast cancer diagnosis.
Would you consider participating in a clinical trial?