“METavivor on the Move” – I am on the team

pinkelephantI have written about my passion (see: While Flying – Frustration surrounds Me ) for doing  everything I can to advocate for Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). 6-10% of breast cancer patients are initially diagnosed at Stage IV (MBC). 30% of all breast cancer patients initially diagnosed with early stage breast cancer will eventually metastasize (or have what some of us call mets). 

In the US alone 1 woman dies every 14 minutes of MBC. I have many friends now who have MBC. Metavivor is an organization that I have great respect for. Like Advocates 4 Breast Cancer they are an all-volunteer, patient-founded organization. They are devoted to raising awareness about metastatic breast cancer, funding vital MBC research and they promote the concept that 30% of every organization’s breast cancer research funds should be devoted to MBC research.

Right now only 2% of all funds for breast cancer organizations go to MBC research. This has to change. As the Executive Director of Advocates 4 Breast Cancer (A4BC), I am proud that our organization is listening to Metavivor. We are devoting 30% of our funds each year to MBC research. We hope that other non-profits will follow our example and recognize how important it is for all breast cancer organizations to fund MBC.

finalAs an update to A4BC, we are in the process of getting our official site up and we are working around the clock to have it done. We are now on Facebook.  Thank you everyone for liking the page and if you haven’t seen it, please have a look and “like” the page to stay updated. Please click on: https://www.facebook.com/advocates4breastcancer.

I am haunted by the death of my very good friend Li Bailey, and my other friends who have died from MBC. Unfortunately this list keeps growing. I also hate that many of my friends have recently become part of the 30% joining my other friends who have MBC. This disease robs so many of so much. We must have MBC research that continues to bring about “quality of life” medications that will extend everyone’s lives for years (not just weeks or months). Forty thousand women in the US alone will die from MBC this year.

MetaVivor_FINALNEW-Logo-av2-2

Metavivor is also looking for volunteers. They have a fantastic campaign called “Metavivor on the Move.”, inviting people to join the volunteer team. They are establishing 10 regional teams, with representatives from every state, plus volunteers in Canada. Although I have a very full plate, I am part of the volunteer team doing what I can to help with Metavivor.  If you would like to volunteer to help in any capacity of your choosing, send an email to CJ@METAvivor.org

To learn more about MBC please check out Nancy’s Point at: http://nancyspoint.com/mets/

To learn more about METAvivor, please visit their website here: www.metavivor.org.

 

While Flying – Frustration surrounds Me

For starters I was on a flight for a happy family event. The day started great. I got a lot of work done on our official Advocates for Breast Cancer website. I got to the airport at the right time even though LAX was so crowded because there’s a problem with the TSA and there’s long lines and less TSA agents to help move the lines faster.

airplaneI was a little mad at myself because I was lazy and went through the machine that I have been told by a radiation oncologist (whom I have great respect for) I should probably skip and not expose myself to the radiation. It just seemed faster. I started in an airport lounge with my computer figuring I’d work a little more on my Breast Cancer News at: http://www.scoop.it/t/breast-cancer-news and my Breast Cancer Advocacy stories at: http://www.scoop.it/t/breast-cancer-advocay. Sounds simple enough.

I searched the internet for abstracts and news stories about breast cancer and found what I hoped would make a difference with advocacy for breast cancer (and other cancers). I even discovered I spelled advocacy wrong today. Certainly I’m human and can make a spelling mistake. I sent out all of my good wishes to my fearless friends and organizations on Twitter trying to make pretty graphics while I sent energy to all of these incredible people who I have met either personally or through social media. So it seemed like it was time to get ready to enjoy a special family weekend.

#BCSMmagesI plugged my computer in and I saw a note from AnneMarie to look at Jody’s blog. I already suspected it’s bad news. Jody Schroger is one of our great moderators every Monday night at 6pm PST for #BCSM (breast cancer social media). It’s very bad. After years of NED (no evidence of disease), Jody has joined the 30% of breast cancer thrivers that has metastatic breast cancer (MBC).

And Jody. Why? She is a fantastic person who runs our #bcsm (breast cancer social media community) meetings with Alicia Stales and Dr. Deanna Attai. Why her? Welcome to the world of breast cancer. It’s all bad luck. Whoever gets Stage IV it has nothing to do with them not taking care of themselves or what stage they started with the disease.

I keep thinking everyone knows that I have talked about the statistic that about 30% of early stage breast cancer patients will go on to become metastatic. That’s Stage IV. Early stage breast cancer is what I had when I did chemo, radiation, and had a recurrence a year and half later. Stage IV means that the breast cancer has managed to travel from the breast to other body parts. With breast cancer it’s usually the bones, brains, liver, or lungs. Stage IV is a chronic disease. It is not curable, but can be contained. It depends on many factors how long it can be “contained”. Usually certain pathologies help because there are more targeted therapies that can work on keeping the cancer at bay. For those that don’t understand Stage IV breast cancer is breast cancer that has traveled to another body part. Let’s say it goes to the bones. It’s not bone cancer but still breast cancer that has metastasized to another body part.

MBC_Infographic_01_v14I am angry. This disease is like dominoes. This disease is so cruel. I watch as friends that I care about get the bad news. The reason I did the chemo-hoping no bad cells could hide from all the nasty toxic chemo that I did because my breast cancer made it in to my lymph nodes giving it a chance to enter my blood stream. We never know if some cells hid out and they are just waiting to say- GOT YA.

OK here’s the Stage IV lesson. They have drug regimens that patients go through that can keep the cancer at bay for some time and then the cancer finds a way to outsmart the therapy. So the MBC patient moves on to the next drug. The trick is to try to find regimens with quality of life for as long as you can until the cancer outsmarts the drug. Then it’s time for nerve-racking scans to see if the drug is working. If the medications are working it’s great. The patient stays the course. Eventually though comes the scan that shows the cancer is growing and trying to get to more body parts. Many MBC patients can live a very long time especially with certain pathologies that lend itself to drug therapies that can help contain the disease. Today’s MBC patient can even have a chance of seeing NED (no evidence of disease). But the cancer still comes back and outsmarts the treatment. I respect everyone who has metastatic disease because they have to live knowing they are on a slope that eventually their disease will no longer respond to the drugs we have available today.

At the same time I want to be clear that today’s MBC patient is quite alive and can have a long quality of life.

At the beginning when diagnosed there is so much shock to the body and mind. I have watched my best friend Li Bailey go through the process quicker than others because unfortunately (bad luck) she had a pathology that today we have less medications to fight it with.

This is just not fair.

think-before-you-pink-1024x574So why am I so frustrated? I am running a non-profit that aligns itself with breast cancer organizations that are working to help breast cancer patients. After learning that Komen’s  junk campaigns were based on lies like telling women if they got mammograms they had a 98% chance of beating breast cancer. This is so not true. Komen also raised the most money of any breast cancer organizations. There was a great article in the New York Times, written by journalist Peggey Orestein that I scooped today called “Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer,” I published the article in my last blog. Meanwhile Katherine O’Brien of the Secretary of the MBCN (Metastatic Breast Cancer Network) wrote a great summary, overview and response to the article called Our Feel-Good War on Breast Cancer: MBCN Responds. In her response to Komen’s use of funds towards metastatic research, she writes, According to a Fortune magazine analysis, only an estimated .5 percent of all National Cancer Institute grants since 1972 focus on metastasis; out of more than $2.2 billion dollars raised over the last six years, Komen has dedicated $79 million to such research — a lot of money, to be sure, but a mere 3.6 percent of its total budget during that period.”

pinkcultureThere has been a a lot of backlash against Komen and as some of you understand the overselling of pink culture I don’t have to explain the issue. I hope that you had time to read these articles. They are so well written.

I think there is another problem with Komen. I think the biggest backlash against them is that they became arrogant. People called them out for having pink parades that did not include the metastatic community because they didn’t want sick people marching in their parades, since it didn’t give you that warm fuzzy feeling of survivors raising their pink pom poms because they survived the disease. Komen thumbed their nose at the metastatic community.

I have to fight for the mets community. I can’t help it. People are dying around me. I don’t like that. People are doing all sorts of difficult medical regimens to stay alive. I have to open my big mouth and do all I can.

I promise you I won’t stop until MBC is a disease that can be reversed or people can live with Quality of life. I will continue to see that we don’t continue having corporations making known toxins that cause breast cancer.

One positive thing that happened is when the #BCSM Community group met we all rallied around Jody. Ironically I was flying back from the weekend on Monday night and joined the meeting on a flight that had wifi. At first I was confused if the timing would work. Then I realized as long as I started the meeting at the right time, the hour would be the same no matter if I flew in to a different time zone. So many of us were frustrated, angry and wanted Jody to know we have her back. This community means so much to me and I am grateful that at least we can come together during the good and bad times.

I have a lot more to say about all of this. For now I am going to publish this first part and continue talking about some other things that have added to my frustration. Stay tuned.

Metaststatic Breast Cancer-30% for 30%-Metavivor

On October 10th, 2011 METAvivor Research and Support launched its 30% for 30% Campaign in a concerted effort to improve longevity and quality of life for persons with metastatic breast cancer (MBC). The concept is simple: 
 
Since thirty percent of all breast cancer patients develop MBC — a fatal condition, then 30% of breast cancer research funds and 30% of breast cancer support activities should be dedicated to metastatic breast cancer. At present, only 2% of breast cancer research funds go toward MBC research and support for the disease is rare.
 
“People do not realize that metastatic breast cancer is widespread and deadly, and that it strikes on whim and takes 41,000 American lives every year. Survivors think they are safe because they are 5 years out … or were diagnosed early … or were told they are ‘cured’, but MBC plays by its own rules.” says METAvivor President, CJ (Dian) Corneliussen-James. “People diagnosed at stage 0 as well as 30-year survivors can and do metastasize. You feel great one day and the next day learn you have MBC. Your life can change that fast.”
 
METAvivor has led the way in showing what can be done at the grassroots level. An all volunteer, non-profit organization, METAvivor was founded and is run largely by persons with MBC. Established in 2007 as a local (Annapolis MD) support program, the group began a fundraising campaign in 2008, became a non-profit organization in 2009, began awarding its own annual MBC research grants in 2010 and in 2011 began advocating 30% for 30%.  In 2012, METAvivor will, is launching its 30% for 30% campaign to ensure research nd support for metastatic breast cancer are commensurate with the prevalence of disease.
 
 
For more information, contact bill@metavivor.org

This is one of the best written ideas for how to deal with research and MBC (Metastatic Breast Cancer). It was written by C.J. (Dian) M. Corneliussen-Jameson  on June 1, 2011 in Solutions, a source of independent coverage for health policy issues in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West and is what started the concept of 30 by 30.

30% for 30%

The most devastating and feared breast cancer is metastatic (stage IV) breast cancer. This occurs when breast cancer spreads to distant, non-adjacent parts of the body.  It strikes 30 percent of breast cancer patients and is fatal, taking lives on average within two to four years of diagnosis.

Clearly, ending death from metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is of critical importance not only to those living with it, but also to anyone who has had, or may at some point develop breast cancer.  Unfortunately, research for MBC is vastly underfunded. Indeed, research for all metastasized cancers is collectively funded at only 2 percent, and MBC is a subset of that group.(A recent quote of 5 percent in regard to metastatic cancer research came from averaging U.S., Canadian and European research portfolios.  All statistics and information in this paper pertain solely to the U.S.)

So where does most of the money go?  It goes predominantly into prevention and early detection.  If one looks at the funding distribution pie charts of various organizations, these two categories are inevitably included.  What is not immediately apparent is that much of the funding designated for other categories, such as biology and etiology, is also spent on issues pertaining to prevention and early detection.  By comparison, MBC research is so poorly funded that it rarely even appears on a pie chart.

The preoccupation with prevention and early detection has continued since at least 1998 when the National Cancer Institute set these two issues as the national breast cancer focus.  Reaffirmed in 2004, the policy has not changed — neither has the fact that each year roughly 195,000 Americans continue to be diagnosed with breast cancer, that 30 percent of these patients continue to metastasize, and that 41,000 continue to die each year.

While one cannot dispute that prevention and early detection are worthy causes, one can indeed question the inequity in the distribution of funds.  Further, one can certainly ask how long we plan to direct the preponderance of research in this same direction, especially in light of what has, or better said has not been achieved.

Quite a few scientists say privately that prevention in the foreseeable future is unrealistic because among other things, we do not even know what causes breast cancer and thus have nothing specific against which to target our efforts.  Likewise, early detection has failed to effectively reduce death because some patients have metastatic cells prior to developing a detectable breast cancer. And thus even stage 0 patients can and do metastasize.

Research for other aspects of breast cancer is certainly being done, but on a diminishing scale.At the bottom of the scale is MBC — the only breast cancer that kills.

In response to a small but nevertheless persistent outcry that not nearly enough is being done, we have recently seen one or two promises to address the issue of MBC. Yet in reading the fine print we see that what is being discussed is research to prevent breast cancer from metastasizing — not research focused on interceding after the cancer has spread.

Is there a difference?  You bet.  Although any cancer research can at times yield new information relevant to another area of research, significant progress usually occurs only when research is directly focused on the problem at hand.

Metastatic cancer exists in a different realm than non-metastatic cancer. Thus MBC is far more apt to benefit from research undertaken for another metastatic cancer than it is from research involving non-metastatic breast cancer. Unfortunately, since the entire field of metastatic cancer is funded at only 2 percent, there is limited related research to draw upon.

So just what is the reluctance to sufficiently fund metastatic cancer research?

Historically, metastatic cancer has been considered too complex an issue to tackle with any reasonable expectation of success.  Yet times, and the state of science have changed.

According to Danny R. Welch, Ph.D., renowned career metastasis researcher and past president of the Metastasis Research Society, “Within 10 years, suffering from and potentially death from metastatic breast cancer could be reduced significantly if the research were fully funded.” There are now many dedicated career metastasis researchers, who have the education, the experience, the skills. the ideas, the proposals and the scientific insights to make a difference.  What they lack is the funding.

I could make the argument that MBC research, and not prevention and early detection, should be the premier focus for breast cancer research. Clearly those with MBC have the most urgent need for research because it is their lives, and only their lives, that are imminently at risk. Equally important is the fact that ending death from MBC is the only means to simultaneously bring peace of mind and the promise of longevity not only to all stages of breast cancer patients but also to a general public that worries about being diagnosed. By contrast, prevention and early detection are relevant only to the undiagnosed. Once a person becomes a patient, these issues are of no further value.

Yes, I could make my argument, but I am unlikely to win.  Thus instead, I advocate for what I think is both fair and achievable – 30 percent for 30 percent.  Thirty percent of all breast cancer patients metastasize and die.  Thus 30 percent of all breast cancer research funds should be dedicated to MBC research — exclusive of research to prevent metastasis, which pertains to the non-metastatic patient and thus belongs in the domain of non-metastatic research.

If we could achieve 30 percent for 30 percent, we would save countless lives

C.J. (Dian) M. Corneliussen-James is president of METAvivor Research and Support Inc., a nonprofit organization advocating for metastatic breast cancer research in Anapolis, MD.