“We have all the tools to eliminate mortality from Her2 positive breast cancers in the next 10 years.”
-Dr. Eric Winer, Director, Breast Oncology Centre, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (February 28, 2009, 9th Annual Conference For Young Women Affected By Breast Cancer).
Her2 is a protein. And it fuels cancer cells. Her2+ breast cancers are always very aggressive and, had I been diagnosed before Herceptin was widely available, I am sure that I would not be alive today. Now, a whole host of new drugs are being developed to attack this breast cancer that affects primarily younger women.
Dr. Winer’s words are among the most hopeful that I have heard in a long time.
And then today, I heard a story on the CBC about a man who is being forced to choose between taking an oral chemotherapy drug for his brain cancer or feeding his kids. It’s heart-breaking.
And, I can’t help but wonder, what if, when the Herceptin stops working, neither my government or my insurance company will pay for the next course of treatment? What happens then?
Dr. Winer also noted that 30-40% of all women with breast cancer metastases will eventually have the cancer spread to the brain. He told us that Herceptin doesn’t pass through the brain and suggested that all women with metastatic her2 positive breast cancers have brain scans done every 6 to 12 months. Guess what I am going to be talking to my oncologist about during my next appointment? (Although, vinorelbine, the chemo drug I’m taking is sometimes used to treat brain mets. That’s reassuring).
I hope this is making at least a little bit of sense. I have a raging head cold and am feeling pretty muddled. My spouse was laughing at me this evening, reminding me that I am always very stoic about the big things (like, say, having a liver the size of a watermelon) but a garden variety head cold turns me into a whimpering puddle of goo.
I guess I am reminded that, generally speaking, I am very healthy these days. And that, in itself, is very hopeful.
This brings me to my second favourite quote from the conference:
“The best predictor of doing well is doing well.”
Cross-posted from Not Just About Cancer.