It is so easy to be scared - actually, to feel terrified by my diagnosis. Although I avoid statistics as much as I possibly can, I have read them. I know what the typical prognosis is for someone with my type and stage of cancer. To say it's "not good" would be a huge understatement. I know what I am up against and I am fully aware that I need to do all I can to be in that small group - that tiny percentage - of women that make it - and make it for a long time! However, I am no stranger to fitting into these unlikely groups. I am now part of the 10% of women that are diagnosed with breast cancer to have the Invasive Lobular form, the 6% of women that are diagnosed as stage IV right from the start, and the mere 5% of women that are diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40. If I can be part of these rare groups, who is to say I can't be part of the small percentage of young women with stage IV cancer that go into remission and lead a long, healthy, happy life! This is my ultimate goal and driving force behind everything I do!
Lately, when I become scared, I have started to read the most current research in the area of metastatic breast cancer (aka stage IV). Sadly, this is an area that has been very underserved regarding research and clinical trials. In the past, the common medical opinion regarding treatment of women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer was to begin palliative care and tell them to enjoy their life while they can - for the next year or so- and that was it. No aggressive treatment, no clinical trials, no cure = no hope. Thankfully, the approach and mindset of the oncology community in regards to metastatic breast cancer is finally evolving. More conversations have been initiated, more treatment is being attempted, and slowly but surely, more research is being conducted. The statistics regarding survival rates of those of us with "incurable", metastatic breast cancer are improving 1-2% each year - I know this doesn't sound like much, but it's a statistic that's moving in the right direction and I will take it! Oncologists aren't just shipping us off to hospice at diagnosis - we are being treated aggressively with the goal of remission. Even if we don't technically have a "cure" for metastatic breast cancer, there are many amazing stories out there of women (and men) living many years with this as a chronic illness - similar to managing other chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
In addition to research for metastatic breast cancer, Susan G. Komen For a Cure is also invested in research regarding better diagnostic tools to allow for early detection of breast cancer. This is also an area close to my heart because Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer in particular is very difficult to pick up on imaging tests. It is often missed on mammograms and goes undiagnosed until it has become very advanced. It is so imperative that we find a way to diagnose this earlier and avoid the onset of metastases. And finally, research regarding young women diagnosed with breast cancer is another area which is often overlooked. I have already met way too many women under the ago of 40 diagnosed with breast cancer - there are too many of us! Yet, so much of the focus and research is geared towards older women. Young women like me are often overlooked, blown off, and misdiagnosed because we don't fit the typical profile of a woman at risk. Unfortunately, survival rates of young women with breast cancer haven't improved that much over the years - and this needs to be changed! We need more research in regards to genetic mutations, early detection and treatment of young women. My doctors are confident I have a genetic mutation that has caused this, but despite numerous genetic tests I have had so far, we cannot determine the mutation responsible. Although great strides have been made, we have a long way to go in order to get control of this devastating disease.
This is why fundraising is so important to me. I am confident that we are on the brink of great discoveries, particularly regarding managing and possibly curing metastatic breast cancer. With each dollar we raise for the Susan G. Komen For the Cure, we are funding research that will help prevent, treat, and cure this awful disease. It is your generous donations that will allow this work to be continued for many years - and your amazing contributions that give me hope that a cure for metastatic breast cancer will eventually be found. I just need to fight hard enough to stick around to see that day.
If you would like to read more about the research efforts being made through your donations to Susan G. Komen For a Cure, please click here. I also wanted to share two areas of research reported on Komen's website that I am especially pleased about:
Research Highlight: EARLY DETECTION
We have provided more than $50M to support research to identify new screening tools, enhance the efficacy of existing screening tests such as mammography, and to improve screening delivery to find breast cancer early when it is most treatable.
Impacts: Komen research explored the characteristics of MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) as a screening tool and today MRI in addition to mammography is recommended for women at high risk for breast cancer – those with a family history or gene mutation. These women are at greater risk of developing breast cancer before age 40 and are more likely to have dense breasts, which can reduce the sensitivity of mammography. Komen research also led to development of new technologies like molecular breast imaging (MBI) which can detect three times as many cancers as film mammography among women with dense breasts.
Exciting research: Our research continues to address important new challenges, such as:
We have provided nearly than $28M since 2006 to support research seeking to understand the processes by which tumor cells migrate to other parts of the body and to identify therapeutic targets for stopping this process.
Impacts: Komen research supported early work by Judah Folkman, Nancy Davidson and others to understand angiogenesis, a process critical in metastasis by which tumors stimulate a blood supply for their continued growth. The first anti-angiogenic drug, Avastin, was approved for use by the FDA in 2004. Komen research also recently led to the discovery of a gene, metadherin, that promotes metastasis in 30 to 40 percent of breast tumors, providing an exciting potential target for therapy.
Exciting research: Our research continues to advance our understanding of the types and sources of signals tumor cells receive that trigger cell migration, and how the area around cells, called the extracellular matrix (EMC), changes to allow cells to start migrating. Examples of important new challenges in metastasis being addressed through our research include:
My incredible friends that have devoted their summer to fundraising and training for the 60 mile, 3 Day walk have two additional events planned to raise as much money as possible - our goal is to hit the $30,000 mark! This Sunday is the spa day at Aretee Day Spa in Grosse Pointe Woods from 3-9pm. Don't worry if you haven't RSVP'd, please just come by and get pampered for a great cause! You are welcome to come by at any time - no need for an appointment.
A week from Friday, please head over to Royal Oak High School to join us for a fun night of Zumba and yoga as we participate in our last fundraiser for the 3 Day For A Cure walk! We would love to see you there to help us reach our goal!
If you are unable to make it to one of these events, but would still like to make a donation to the Meghan Malley Rally team, please click here.
Another great event that I would like to share with you is the Susan G. Komen Ride For A Cure. My amazing friend Kyle is participating in this event on Saturday, August 6. She will be riding her bike for 30 miles throughout the Ann Arbor area in order to raise money for the Susan G. Komen organization. For more general information on this event, including the course map, please click here. If you would like to make a contribution to Kyle's fundraising efforts, please click here. Kyle, I am so proud of you and so grateful that you are doing this. I can't wait to come cheer you on!
I can't thank you all enough for your donations and support of all of our fundraising efforts. I promise that once I am able to get my own health stabilized, I will focus a great deal of my time and attention to spreading the word regarding early detection for high risk young women, and to further promote research towards metastatic disease!
I am looking forward to these next two fundraising efforts and I'm especially excited for the 3 Day event which starts on August 12! It will be incredible. More details soon to come on all the festivities of that weekend.
Have a fabulous weekend guys - I know I will! Can't beat spending time up north with some of my very best friends from high school. My girlfriends are seriously sunshine for my soul! We'll miss you Chels, Jen & Kel. ♥
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