Explaining the inexplicable: On considering a book about my cancer battle


I spent the last four days at a writing workshop. I have been toying with the idea of writing a book that would chronicle these 13 years of living with stage 4 cancer.

I would write about the good, the bad and the ugly. Why I am still alive, of course, I have no way of truly explaining because being diagnosed with cancer and dying of cancer is, in my opinion, most often a crap-shoot.

At the workshop, 15 women and two published writers who served as our instructors were the “angels-in-the-wings,” ready to swoop in and move us students along.

I have never considered myself a writer. In my columns I just lay it all out— whatever it is I’ve been going through that week.

It’s been four years since I started writing Staring Down Cancer, and, as my readers know, there have been many ups and downs. I can jump from standing at death’s door to going on a safari with my family to celebrate my birthday. It’s been the craziest ride— and a true miracle that I am still here.

I just got home from the doctor’s office, where I got another CT scan, and I am wildly nervous about the results. At my last visit, I casually asked my doctor how everyone else in the nationwide study is doing.

Someone slap me! I have had amazing results with this clinical trial drug, which has halted the growth of my liver metastases for over two years. So, when all is good, just take your next installment of pills and get the hell out. Avoid general conversation, lest you spend the next four days on your computer, trying to piece together what the doctor was telling you. Remember what mom always says, “No news is good news.” That could not be truer for cancer.

After my question, which I never should have asked, my doctor had to answer. “There are about 4 percent of you left in the study.”

Holy crap.

All I could think was, “My days are numbered.” Four frickin’ percent.

Four percent was the number bandied about when I was first diagnosed in 2001. Doctor: “If you have lumpectomy surgery, and if they don’t find cancer in your lymph nodes, and you undergo radiation therapy and take an estrogen-blocker every day, there is about a 4 percent chance the cancer will come back.”

“Wow,” I thought, “Those are damn good odds.”

Not. Two years later, it had moved to my bones and was running through my bloodstream. Not good.

What’s up with this number 4? In my family, I am No. 2 out of nine children. I was born Dec. 6, 1953. My street number is 11827. I have two children and a husband, none of whose birthdays include the number 4. Whatever. All I know is, for me, No. 4 is bad.

But let me get back to this incredible writing workshop course led by Jennifer Louden. She is awesome. The students were awesome. No negativity, lots of encouragement, writing help and love. I think I will write the book because I do believe I have some good tidbits of advice.

I feel like a bit of a maverick when it comes to the way I have handled cancer, using my own ideas and solutions. I am also a maverick in that I took my professional experience and turned it into the first televised fundraiser for cancer. That fundraiser, Stand Up To Cancer, raised $100 million for cancer research.

I wish I could hug every person out there who is living with this chronic disease— as well as the spouses and partners at those people’s sides. You are all heroes.

Today, I am inviting you to visit my website and watch the videos I’ve published. Find the name of a comedian who makes you laugh and select that option. My favorites are Jack Black, Will Ferrell and the Dan Band.

Begin or end every day laughing! God bless.

Noreen Fraser is living with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. She is the Founder and CEO of the Noreen Fraser Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to funding groundbreaking women’s cancer research. To stay in touch with Noreen, please ‘LIKE’ The Noreen Fraser Foundation on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Noreen can be contacted via email at noreen@noreenfraserfoundation.org.

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