When ignorance is bliss: The question I’m too afraid to ask my doctors


A cancer patient shows off her breast cancer survivor bracelet. (REUTERS/Jim Bourg)

Cancer is ever-changing. It’s got you by the throat and is not about to let go. There will be times along the way that you can keep it at bay with a certain chemo or treatment, which will work for a period of time. However, because cancer is the smartest devil in the room, it will eventually find a way around your treatment and prevail.

That’s why I am always harping on the critical need to fund research to create new drugs to block the spread of cancer. I have been on one of those drugs for two years.

I was shocked to find out yesterday that, of all of the participants in my clinical trial at the University of California, Los Angeles, I am one of two patients still in the trial.

This means the cancer has outsmarted the others— that they are no longer participants in the trial and are off the drug. How many of them are alive? How many have been placed on a re-tooling of medications to keep cancer at bay a little longer?

This news cuts to the core for someone in my shoes.

I did not ask how many are alive because I am too scared to know (and, of course, my doctor cannot answer that question due to patients’ rights to privacy). As I process this information, I start to tank. How many can hear that kind of news and respond, “Wow, I’m so lucky to be one of the two!” Quite frankly, I wanted to run out of the room and hide in the bathroom, crying.

I asked, “How many trial participants in the entire country are still in the program?” His reply: “Let’s just say you are in the 5 percent.” To me, this translates that my days of luck are coming to an end.

This trial drug is the cream-of-the-crop. Where do I go when this is gone? Can’t ask. Too scared.

This is my life, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Today, I don’t want to hear how lucky I am to be one of the two, or how fortunate I am to be in the 5 percent. Don’t you dare try to tell me that. I’m sad, tired and angry. I am like a soldier with PTSD.

I need to feel what I feel and, as this maddening circle comes around, I will eventually pull myself together and move on. I will keep doing what I have been doing. I will not back down. I will continue to travel, to stay out of bed, to laugh with my friends, to be with my family, to run my foundation and raise money for women’s cancer research. I will move on as if I don’t have cancer. That is how I roll.

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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