Hello Cancer, Pleased to Meet You


I’ve learned that knowledge is the key to fighting cancer. Here are three ways I learn more about my disease.

cartoon drawing of blogger and lung cancer survivor, Suzanne Remington

It has been said that “Knowing one’s enemy is the key to winning the battle.” This is never truer than when the enemy is cancer. How do we get to know the cancer that lives within?

First, I learned what makes my enemy tick — how this cancer is able to wreak havoc in my body. The best tool for that is biomarker testing. In cancer treatment, biomarker testing (sometimes called tumor marker testing) is a way to determine the genes, proteins and other substances that make up that tumor. In my case, it was through biomarker testing that I found that my cancer was driven by a mutant gene.

The biomarker test determined the weapon to use to fight my cancer. My treatment consists of gene-targeted therapy. Before biomarker testing, I was scheduled for chemotherapy, and probably would not be around today to write this blog. Biomarker testing is clearly a powerful weapon.

Next, I joined a network of people with the same cancer that I have. Social media makes that easier. My network exists on Facebook. We have researchers talk to us about their latest research, we share what other research we have read, ask questions and lament against treatment side effects. We also have a writing group, a book club, a men’s group etc. It’s a place where we go for an empathetic ear, as well as a place where to share our latest victories.

This has led to in-person meetings with people in my state and Google Meet coffee breaks with others further away. Every summer, we have the chance to meet at our annual conference. The connections are powerful. As such, these alliances are my greatest weapon; we are stronger together as we share a host of arsenals against our common enemy.

Finally, knowing the enemy means knowing others who know the enemy better than you do. I’d urge people to consider getting a second opinion from someone who specializes in the cancer that you have. You can find them through your network, or by searching the internet for recent studies and trials related to your cancer.

I learned to pay attention to names that keep showing up as study authors. These people may be doing research or working with other specialists that your own oncologist is not working with. They may know of other weapons to use against the enemy.

These people are not a replacement for my oncologist; they are an addition to my team. I was able to travel to see these clinicians them thanks to a donation from the organization representing my cancer. They paid for the visit while I paid for the hotel and travel. What I got in return was the peace of mind that I have the best oncology team to fight the enemy. When this cancer spreads, I have so many knowledgeable people on my side.

These three things help me use my most important weapon: my knowledge. There is sometimes more than one way to approach the cancer fight; I am part of the team that makes those decisions, as opposed to putting all my trust in one other people. We all want to live as long as we can, as well as we can. Knowing one’s enemy is the key to winning that battle.

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