Happy Birthday CURE

CURE is celebrating its 10th anniversary this spring, and, for me, it's hard to believe we have published 40 issues – and now have an annual Resource Guide and special issues and books and pocket guides and all the other material that have come from our office in the past decade.Working on a cancer magazine was wish fulfillment for me. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1986, I remember thinking that I wanted to do a national newsletter about cancer that would offer the stories of those who had been there for the newly diagnosed. Little did I know that 14 years later I would get a call about an oncologist who was starting a magazine for patients, and he was looking for a journalist who had had cancer who might be interested in helping him. Needless to say, I rushed right over.It's been hard, sometimes, spending my days writing about cancer. We see the people and their families in the midst of the cancer struggle and, hopefully, give them both the medical and psychosocial information they need to be empowered, educated patients who have the tools to fight cancer on every level. But sometimes it feels like slow going when we hear about someone we interviewed dying. Over the past decade, the staff here at CURE has seen promising basic research move into clinical trials that promised great hope for a better treatment – only to see it fail. We all wait, as do the researchers and the patients, only to have the drugs fail to provide a better outcome than what is already available. But in writing our 10th anniversary feature, I had a chance to take a step back and look at the last 10 years and see that we have made progress – real progress--the Star Trek kind of progress in many areas in cancer. In fact, CURE was founded in 2001 because the first targeted treatments had begun to be used. Instead of drugs that killed randomly, the new targeted drugs went after specific cells and parts of cells that resulted in easier treatments. One of the most successful drugs developed was Gleevec, and people with a form of leukemia that used to require a bone marrow transplant (one of the worst kinds of treatment) now take a pill every day that has minimal side effects.Technology has improved surgery with robotics and pinpoint radiation therapy that keeps healthy cells out of the way. And, we have learned in the past decade that we can no longer lump everyone together the way we did when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Back then you either had breast cancer or you didn't. The only variable was big or small, which was early or late. Now the variables in the kind of breast cancer you have may mean one kind of treatment or another specifically suited to you. Women with a gene called Her2, estimated at 25 percent of breast cancer patients, now get a very targeted breast cancer drug called Herceptin. And women whose breast cancer recurs no longer face immediate death but often live five, 10, or even 20 years with a good quality of life. These women are part of the 13 million cancer survivors who are growing to 20 million over the next 8 years who are called survivors, those whose lives have been interrupted by cancer but who choose to go on living to the best of their ability. In the area of supportive care have come advances in the fields of pain management, nausea, and cognitive dysfunction. Researchers have come to understand that just as important as curing the patient is paying attention to the family and life yet lived. So we have seen a good decade.Celebrating is important, and I really like the ACS ads about being the official sponsor of birthdays. Mostly I like the fact that after you have cancer, you stop worrying about how old you are and just celebrate that you are here to celebrate. I remember after I was diagnosed someone whining about turning 40. I looked at her and said, "I have a cure for that, but you don't want it." It's interesting how one piece of information can change your view on another.Next year the ACS celebrates its 100th birthday. Now that will be a long list of accomplishments and a lot of celebrations. Instead of presents send money.