Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Around the Web

I woke up Monday morning to the smell of rotten eggs wafting from a rarely-used shower in the bathroom off our kitchen. Through the frosted glass door, I could see a shadowy mass taking over the shower's floor. I hesitated for a minute before opening the door. To sludge? Sewage? It was black and not quite liquid so much as liquid filled with sediment. I quickly closed the door and tried to make my coffee without gagging.

Is Mercury still in retrograde?

Because our stove's gas leak is also back, even though we thought it had been repaired in November. So I'm relearning how to use a slow cooker while I (again) wait for the appliance company to (again) find a part for our thirty-something-year-old beast of an oven.

Clearly, I'm supposed to stay out of the kitchen this week.

(But if you have any winning crockpot recipes, please pass them along!)

The fourth plumber I called was able to come out to the house that day instead of asking me to wait until Thursday. I had just enough time to drop Quinn off at school, drive over to my oncologist's office for blood work, and get back home to meet the guy who'd climb on my roof to snake our shower, which I still don't fully understand. At least my house no longer smells like burning sulfur.

None of which has anything to do with this week's round-up. Except to maybe say that it pays to be persistent.

Case in Point: Slamon's Tenacity Advances the Field of Breast Cancer Research

"Slamon, now director of Clinical/Translational Research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), conducted the laboratory work and testing that resulted in trastuzumab (Herceptin), the first molecularly targeted therapy for breast cancer. 

His is a particularly intriguing story because the scientist had to fight for 12 years to get trastuzumab from development through approval, keeping the project alive despite a nearly crippling early lack of funding."

A Poignant Call for Action on Metastatic Breast Cancer

Watch the video, too, if you can. 

And this article is helpful for background.

"We don’t really collect meaningful statistics on metastatic breast cancer recurrences. US cancer registry data captures data at the time of diagnosis and death. The registries don’t track what happens in between—i.e., people currently living with metastatic breast cancer.

Remember, about 30% of those originally diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will have a metastatic recurrence. But this information is not tracked–until people die:

NCI and SEER database record incidence, initial treatment and mortality data. Most people do NOT present with metastatic diagnosis. The cancer registry does not track recurrence — which is how the majority of people are thrust into the metastatic breast cancer ranks."

An Interesting Way to Treat Mortality-Induced Anxiety

A long but very worthy read about an experimental therapy. What do you think? Would you try it?

"Every guided psychedelic journey is different, but a few themes seem to recur. Several of the cancer patients I interviewed at N.Y.U. and Hopkins described an experience of either giving birth or being born. Many also described an encounter with their cancer that had the effect of diminishing its power over them. Dinah Bazer, a shy woman in her sixties who had been given a diagnosis of ovarian cancer in 2010, screamed at the black mass of fear she encountered while peering into her rib cage: “Fuck you, I won’t be eaten alive!” Since her session, she says, she has stopped worrying about a recurrence—one of the objectives of the trial."

Chemoprevention Is Not Very Popular

Maybe because risk for breast cancer is not very well understood? 

"Given that these drugs seem to offer some protection, why are they not in widespread use? Serious side effects is one reason. Beyond blood clots and uterine cancer, other known reactions to the drugs include strokes, cataracts, bone pain, hot flashes, nausea and vaginal dryness.

For some women, the risk of such side effects may be worth taking, depending on their particular odds of developing breast cancer. Those odds can be figured by using a commonly used calculator, often called the Gail model, that estimates a woman’s chances of having breast cancer in a five-year period and over a lifetime.

But this is where it gets more complicated. While many experts agree that women at high risk should consider the medications, they do not agree on what Gail score should trigger that consideration."

One Drug's Success Story

"Nobody ever died of cancer cells," says Dr. Larry Norton at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. "You die of tumors."

"I've been doing oncology long enough that I've seen cancers go from incurable to curable at the right moment in history," he says. "It could happen to breast cancer in years; it could happen to breast cancer in days to weeks. We don't know when it's going to happen."


  1. Interesting read. Thank you for sharing. I often wonder how these numbers are calculated. So basically the % risk of developing mets can be higher than the 30% they refer to, did I get that right? We def. need a better way to track these diagnoses. I happen to be one who believes more money should be invested into stage 4 research. Organizations are doing things backwards and it's worrisome for us who may one day face a stage 4 diagnosis.

    1. The % risk of developing mets is often stated as 30% by trusted groups like Metavivor, but I don't know if it is accurate. As far as I can tell, there is no one place that tracks these numbers properly. And from what I understand, people with mets are only "counted" if they are metastatic from the beginning, like I was. Yes, we need a better system!

  2. Mercury is in retrograde I swear... I will have to send you my favorite crockpot chicken tortilla soup recipe. I make is regularly. :)

    1. Chicken tortilla soup is my FAVORITE! Please do pass it along. Even if it is already 90 degrees here in Phoenix.

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