Being Your Own Advocate

CURE publisher Susan McClure blogs from a survivor's perspective.

As I made my way to the convention center this morning, I heard dialects from every country imaginable. Over the course of the next few days, more than 9,000 people (a new record) from all over the world are expected to converge upon this Texas town, to share critical information that will improve breast cancer treatments worldwide.

In an opening statement, Raymond N. Dubois, MD, PhD, told attendees, “We have to remember that breast cancer is the enemy and that we need to work more closely together … to have as much impact on cancer as possible.” He encouraged doctors to contribute to the meetings and discussions, and said, “Hopefully, we’ll come up with some great ideas to take back to our home institutions.”

The educational sessions were filled to capacity. Most of the smaller sessions, which were capped at around 200, had another 100 or so attendees milling about outside, hoping to get in, but in the meantime, mingling and discussing the conference with their peers.

Listening the sharing of ideas gave me hope that attendees were taking Dubois’ message to heart.

In between sessions, I ran into the executive director of a non-profit, and a personal friend, who confided that her cancer had returned and that she was traveling regularly to another state in order to participate in a clinical trial. This is her third bout of cancer in the past ten or 11 years, and she is trying everything possible to knock it out once and for all.

I asked her how it was going, and she told me how awful it was this time, as her new medical team seemed unwilling to address her severe chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. The research facility where she is being treated suggested that she enroll in a clinical trial to combat these symptoms but seemed less willing to prescribe the plethora of drugs already available. “I’m already IN a clinical trial,” she protested. “I shouldn’t have to feel this rotten in order to participate.”

To me, that conversation demonstrated how important it is to be a strong and determined self advocate while going through treatment. My oncologist once said that it is easy for doctors to become so fixated on ridding patients of their cancer, they sometimes forget to consider the devastation that treatment can cause to a patient’s well-being. It is not only your right, but your responsibility to tell your medical team how you feel, what you need, and how your treatment is impacting your quality of life.

Published 12.11.08

San Antonio

Finding Inspiration at Breast Cancer Symposium

Hi CURE readers! For the second year running, we are proud to bring you daily updates from the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). For 31 years, this program has provided ground-breaking information on breast cancer to physicians and researchers, and I believe that while many organizations provide updates, most don't attempt to tackle it as CURE is—as it happens. The CURE team is here "en masse" to arm you with the latest information on breast cancer. Our scientific affairs team will be scouring the conference, looking for the newest, emerging data to report; our editorial staff will be delivering breaking news as it happens; our editor-at-large will be reporting on advocacy and survivorship issues; and I will be offering the perspective of a breast cancer survivor—providing "color commentary" if you will, on what it's like to attend a meeting of this magnitude.

This is my 3rd year at SABCS.Last year, when I was preparing for the trip, my then 12-year-old son asked, “Mom, don’t oncologists celebrate the holidays?” As I packed, I asked myself the same question.Once I arrived, however, my question was answered. The researchers, physicians, and patient advocates, who travel from all over the country (all over the world for that matter) in the middle of the all-too-hectic holiday season, are here for several reasons—they are passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer, they want to share their findings with others to advance treatment, and they are eager to take what they’ve learned back to their communities so more of us can live longer, happier lives as survivors.

I hope that you are educated and inspired by what you read in the coming days. There's much more to come!

Published 12.10.08

Read more of CURE's coverage of the 31st annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium at http://media.curetoday.com/htmlemail/sabcs.