Day #1, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, 2018

Two planes and a time change; four (4) different people to help with me with my bag; at least a mile walked in three different airports, and I landed in San Antonio, Texas Tuesday afternoon.  The high is in the high 50s/low 60s and that’s COLD for this Florida girl.  This is is my first foray into the technical world of breast cancer research and my head is reeling from all the details and specifics.  I am thankful for a basic working knowledge of biology and chemistry, but let’s face it, that was more than 20 years ago.

The main point I left the day with is that our bodies are amazing.  As the Pslamist said “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14).  There are so many amazing things about our bodies that doctors are learning but there is still so much more to learn.  Everything in our bodies is in such a delicate equilibrium that to change one thing can be catastrophic or a salvation.

Will cancer be cured by 2020? or by any year for that matter?

Based on what I’ve learned today, there are many promising ideas, but I had no idea how many promising ideas turn out to be therapeutically unworkable.  For instance, there is a class of drugs that work amazingly well in mice to address the PIKC3A mutation (one of mine) but in human trials, the toxicity is intense and causes all kinds of issues.  One group of women developed diabetes.

Those women are heros in my book.

Anyone who takes a chance on a clinical trial is a hero.

The research process is so highly technical and precise and specific that so many different projects are needed to investigate so many individual questions.  Research builds on other research and researchers collaborate over many different things.  This is good, but wow, does it progress slowly.

There are breakthroughs–for instance, the drug I’m taking now (Ibrance) was only approved by the FDA in 2015.  That class of drugs, called CDK4/6 inhibitors, are still the best treatment for many women right now.

BUT

The death toll in the US for stage IV metastatic breast cancer is actually rising.  113 a day in 2017 and 114 per day in 2018.

Maybe part of that is because the rate of reoccurance in early stage breast cancer patients is holding steady at 30%.  The infographic attached to this post is startling and sad.  So many women who think that the nightmare is over, that they had cancer and beat it face the significant risk of reoccurance and no one is talking about it.

It’s scary, yes, but it is the reality.

So, after one day of cramming my head full of knowledge and filling pages and pages of notes that I can barely read, I don’t know that I am smarter, but I am more appreciative of the men and women who work hard every day to figure out the complex puzzle that is cancer. The amount of failures and defeats these researchers face daily is daunting, yet they don’t give up.

I’m thankful for that.

Author: Abigail Johnston

I'm a daughter, a wife, a mother, and I've been living with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer since March, 2017. All of the words I publish are my own.

One thought on “Day #1, San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, 2018”

  1. Omg, you nailed it! You become partially educated enough to double as a JD and an MD! But you also get to a point where you can barely see another medical article again. The moments you are with a doctor who isn’t a specialist in your particular disease and you know more than they do about it… scary! But I also have to tip my hat to the ones who DO the work. Who are chipping away at things we never imagined having to learn anything about or worry about. Thankful that while we were trying to help and catch others at the most difficult times in their lives, someone else was preparing to help/catch us in ours. I love that part of this entry! ❤️

    Like

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