Category Archives: Metastatic Breast Cancer

Kimberly Jewett Consulting, Inc. Hires Veteran Advocate

Beth Fairchild Brings Years of Experience to Patient Advocacy

SAN ANTONIO, TX – December 8, 2015 – Kimberly Jewett Consulting, Inc., a leader in patient advocacy for life sciences markets, is pleased to announce the addition of Virginia “Beth” Fairchild to their team during the 2015 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Beth, a seasoned professional, will hit the ground running as she brings several years worth of hands-on client and management expertise, backed by her personal experience as a metastatic breast cancer survivor and passionate patient advocate. Her qualifications include a successful track record in healthcare marketing and sales, and her extensive experience in specifically, metastatic breast cancer with a comprehensive understanding of this sophisticated arena.

As an associate, Beth will be contributing to the growth of the organization by concentrating on enrichment of client satisfaction. In her new role, Beth will act as a conduit to clients when she designs and implements new strategies, and as a liaison to new opportunity development – translating client needs into viable product enhancements and solutions.

When asked about her new role with KJC, Beth replied, “I joined Kimberly Jewett, Inc. because I wanted to be part of a team actively involved in driving patient needs and public understanding of this disease. One hundred and twenty-three women and men will die today from METAstatic Breast Cancer, and one day I will be one of those 123. I look forward to working Kim and moving forward with the pharmaceutical industry to build pharma/patient relationships and to create support and advocacy programming.”

CEO and Founder, Kimberly Jewett adds, “We are excited, honored, and grateful to have Beth join our team, supporting the needs of our clients. Our passion, combined with our purpose and professional skillset, will truly impact the lives of cancer patients and their families, and we are both blessed to have the opportunity to be that voice. While honoring the patients who are fighting, surviving, and thriving every day of their fight, and remembering the ones who lost their lives way too soon. Together, WE CAN make a difference in the lives of cancer patients and their families. People just like US.”

Protesting for Metastatic Breast Cancer Research

It is estimated that 150,000-250,000, Women & Men in the U.S. are living with Metastatic Breast Cancer.  1430 people die every single day from MBC. 24% of these people are alive 5 years from Diagnosis. AND, only 7% of $15-BILLION dollars from 2000-2013, by the major government and non-profit funders in the US and the UK was spent on Metastatic focused Research. This is unacceptable, and change needs to happen.

I met an amazing woman, Beth Caldwell, who is one of the leaders of this MetUp Protest. Beth, is a young mother, metastatic breast cancer thriver, and passionate advocate. Beth, explains life as a MBC patient, the lack of funding & awareness it receives, and what we intend to do to change it. Tomorrow is one step of this process. You can see her video here: http://bit.ly/1N9a7KT and her Huffington Post article here: http://huff.to/1Ii99IL

METUP is a diverse, non-partisan group committed to direct action for a viable cure for breast cancer. We protest and demonstrate; we meet with government and health officials and researchers; we support research into metastatic disease; and we speak out against the sexualizing of breast cancer. We are convinced that the deaths of women and men from metastatic breast cancer are a paramount issue, and we pledge ourselves to oppose all who deny the reality of the 522,000 people who will die from metastatic breast cancer globally every year while waiting for a cure to be found.

Legislative Goals

    1. We want the SEER database modified to begin tracking when someone with early stage disease metastasizes, so that every woman and man with metastatic disease is counted.
    2. We want additional research funding for all cancer types. The National Institute of Health (NIH) now only funds about 8% of the grant applications it receives. We want that number increased to at least 25%.
    3. We want at least 30% of federal breast cancer research dollars to be spent on metastatic disease, with a focus on translational research.

Today, I will be joining over 220 Women & Men, to advocate that more funding for breast cancer gets allocated for Metastatic Research. This protest, AKA “DIE-IN” will take place on the West Lawn of Capital Hill, in Washington, D.C. We will make our voices heard, our bodies seen, and our passion for this change to happen. We will also be meeting with legislators to ask for their support.

I am honored to be here today, representing the many lives of women and men who have passed way too soon. And, to be that voice — advocating for change.

More to come soon!

4 Lessons I Learned From My Cancer Scare

home-advocateIn my original post, going back to June, I mentioned that I had received a positive PET scan.  I met with 4 of the top gynecologic oncologists in the Chicagoland area, and each one was consistent in telling me that I had metastatic breast cancer to my ovary that would require a full hysterectomy and bilateral oophorectomy. Divorce? Cancer-again? Surgery? Loose my uterus and ovaries? Was this really happening to me, right now?

With the best opinions in the area from top gyn oncs, I proceeded to surgery, prepared for the next chapter of my life, without estrogen and more surgery and potentially more chemotherapy if the surgery found additional sites of disease.

I was angry & fearful, and could not believe this was happening again.

On the day of surgery I had asked that if the growth was not cancerous to keep my uterus and other ovary. Despite support for that plan pre-operatively,  I was actually in the pre-op holding area and my surgeon was recommending the initial plan of full hysterectomy and to remove both tubes & ovaries. What was going on here? We prepare for weeks and on the morning of surgery we change the entire game plan?

Nonetheless, my wishes were followed and the involved ovary was sent for a frozen section which was read as a benign cyst. The surgeon removed both of my Fallopian tubes, and a small piece of my liver, which also turned out to be benign.

NO CANCER! NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE! I felt like I was just given another chance at life, for the third time.

This specific experience taught me many very valuable lessons.

Multiple opinions are better than one. If I had stopped at the first or second consultation I may have had radical surgery for a benign disease. This is because PET scans can be very non-specific. Every “hot spot” is not the same, particularly in this disease and in the ovaries for pre-menopausal women, as in my case. While PETs can be “positive” or “negative” they can also be “in-between” and depending on the organ involved, may have differing sensitivities (probability disease is present if test is positive) and specificities (probability disease is absent if test is negative).

Secondly, physicians will advise you of what they think is best for you based on the evidence, literature and their experience with similar patients or “cases”. You have to remember your “case” may be different. In reality, my PET scan was “hot” but could have been “hotter” and because of the differences in how the test is performed, it may not have been as “hot” somewhere else.

Thirdly, no single test, as in PET scan, or anyone’s opinion may be that accurate and should not alone guide what YOU want to do. Physicians are trained to battle disease and as medicine has become more sub-specialized with physicians focused in narrower areas, it becomes harder for them to consider the person in as much as the disease or the psychologic impact their recommendations may have for the patient.

Lastly, be your own best advocate. Get multiple opinions, read up on what tests can and can’t tell physicians, search the literature to see the best approach to similar “cases” and finally, read first-person testimonials from other patients about their experiences, treatment and post-operative feelings.

I sincerely appreciate all the support, prayers, and kind words of encouragement. I am fully recovered, and ready to continue enjoying life, while doing the work that I have so much passion for.

 

ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium 2015 News Roundup

MRI improved breast cancer detection in average risk women

Oncology Practice reports that research suggests that “MRI-screening may improve the detection of biologically relevant breast cancer in women who are at average-risk, and reduce the interval-cancer rate down to 0%, at a low false-positive rate.” In the “cohort of heavily pre-screened women at average risk, the additional cancer yield achieved through MRI was high, at 15.8 cases per 1,000 women screened, and the added cancers diagnosed by MRI tended to be of high nuclear grade.” The findings were presented at the 2015 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

Use Of Aromatase Inhibitors In The Adjuvant Setting May Delay Development Of Contralateral Breast Cancer

Oncology Practice reports that research suggests “the use of aromatase inhibitors (AIs) in the adjuvant setting appears to delay the development of contralateral breast cancer.” The “effect was particularly prevalent among breast cancer patients who were BRCA positive.” The research was presented at the 2015 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

Age At Biopsy and Number Of Atypical Hyperplasia Foci May Be Good Predictors Of Risk For Subsequent Breast Cancer

Oncology Practice reports that research suggests that “a woman’s age at biopsy and the number of atypical hyperplasia foci appear to be good predictors of risk for subsequent breast cancer.” The “review of pathology records and medical history on more than 13,000 women with benign breast disease showed that a predictive model including age and atypia effectively identified those women with atypical hyperplasia at highest risk for developing breast cancer.” The findings were presented at the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

Radiotherapy not needed for all women post mastectomy

Oncology Practice reports that research suggests that “postmastectomy radiotherapy should not be routinely recommended for breast cancer patients with microscopic nodal metastases (N1mic) and T1-2 tumors.” Investigators found that “in patients with T1-2, N1 disease who were treated with standard therapies, the study authors found that overall, there were low rates of locoregional failure.” The findings were presented at the 2015 ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

Many women with triple-negative breast cancer aren’t screened for BRCA

Oncology Practice reports that research indicates that “many younger women diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers do not get tested for BRCA, despite guideline recommendations.” Researchers found that “among 173 women with triple-negative tumors – lacking the HER2, estrogen and progesterone receptors –17% of those who should have been tested for BRCA according to National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines, were not tested.” The findings were presented at the ASCO Breast Cancer Symposium.

“Mommy, are you going to die?”

picture2On May 28th, Thursday, it was the last day of school. I purposely scheduled my quarterly PET Scan, knowing how busy the day was going to be, with all the kids coming over to celebrate with their moms and friends. The anxiety and fear never leaves your mind, and the uncertainty overwhelms you. I tried my best to stay busy, but as the day and night progressed, I could feel my mind wonder. Conversations seemed to be less engaging for me, and all I wanted to do was call my oncologist to hear the results.

I had a big oncology conference the next morning in the city, and I was planning on driving that night after my parents arrived to relieve me. Than, the call came in, 9pm. There was an area, in my left adnexal, near my left ovary and fallopian tube that showed suspicious activity that needed to be further evaluated. All I could think of was, how in the world would I even have the time to find a gynecologic oncologist with my schedule so packed morning till night for the next 7 days. But, I had to do what women do best – put on my work hat, and place this to the back burner to focus on what the priority was at that moment. I had no choice. What I was able to do, and I realize how blessed I am, was the ability to access the top oncologists from all over the world. Professionally, I have the most amazing support network, and I asked every one I knew what this could be, and how to best proceed. The overall suggestion was to undergo surgery to remove this and get the pathology to determine if this was truly ovarian cancer as they suggested on the report, or the return of metastatic breast cancer.

When I arrived home from my trip, I had 3 names of the top gynecologic oncologists in my area. I scheduled my first appointment with a local doctor from Hinsdale Hospital. I went alone thinking I would hear the same suggestions from my connections. But, that was not the case. After my exam, and review of films, and tests, the doctor looked at me and said, “Ms. Jewett, I think you have metastatic breast cancer that has went to your ovary. We are going to need to perform a full hysterectomy. Now, keep in mind this could be benign, or it could also be a new primary, such as ovarian cancer. But, in my professional opinion, I think we are dealing with MBC.” As tears started to roll down my face, all I could think of was how much more could I possibly handle on my plate? Divorce? Cancer? Surgery?

The second opinion was the same recommendation. This doctor was the top gyn-onc from Northwestern. When I heard his thoughts on MBC, I cried and put my hand in his face and asked him to just stop talking. I could not hear anymore of his thoughts. Much less how he was going to take my uterus out through my vagina! I am 38 years old, cancer has taken my breasts, taken my ability to have any more children, and now it is going to take my remaining female parts next? When do I say enough is enough?

Cancer is an evil Bitch.

After that appointment, I had to meet with my attorney that is handling my divorce case. I remember sitting in the waiting room, thinking was this really my life? Not only did we have to discuss my financial concerns surrounding the divorce, but it was also time to consider a Will and Power of Attorney. And, I needed this information in place before my surgery date. I was sick to my stomach. All I wanted to do was to go home and hold my kids so tight and forget this was all happening.

My last appointment was with a female gyn-onc, on Thursday, who had a much more compassionate perspective and approach. She was able to confirm that this was not a mass, it was my ovary that was enlarged, and had some suspicious activity going on. She did agree that the best option would be a full hysterectomy. However, she understands that as a young woman, who is cycling every month, this would not be an easy journey. I asked if it was possible to leave my right ovary, at least until I was ready to let it go. She said she was open to that suggestion, but if I were to test positive for cancer, whether that was metastatic breast or ovarian, it would need to come out, no matter what. I like to think and believe there is hope. And, I like that she is a female doctor who has compassion, and understanding to do what is best for me in the midst of all the uncertainty and anxiety. I have come to realize that with a diagnosis like cancer, patients need to feel as if they have some form of control. It truly does help with the decision making.

When I arrived home from that appointment, my kids were very aware with what was going on. I had tried my best to keep them from all of this until I had a better idea what was going to happen. But, they had to know the reality, it was time. I sat them both down, alone. I explained to them that I had a PET scan, just as I always do every quarter, but this time something showed up that needed further evaluation.

My daughter, Kalli, immediately got upset and told me I was lying and she knows it was cancer. I told her we really did not know that, but I would need to have surgery to take out that “suspicious area” and some other parts to ensure we minimized my risk.

My son, Tyler, looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, are you going to die of cancer?” At this point, I could no longer hold back my emotions, and I simply told them both that I did not have that answer. What I could promise them was, I fought cancer twice now, and that I would do everything I could to fight it again. And this surgery was part of that process. I explained that we had some time until surgery, and that I wanted to take a vacation with them before, so we could enjoy the rest of their summer vacation before school started.

It has been the worst 3 weeks of my life. I have cried so much, felt the anxiety in my chest, and have feared what lies ahead. What I am so grateful for in the midst of this uncertainty is the overwhelming support, love, and compassion from all my friends and family, near and far, personally and professionally. I have gotten emails, calls, text messages, and cards, that fuel my strength to know we are not alone. There is an army with a lot of gear fighting this battle with us, and I will overcome this next chapter of my life.

So, for now I need time to process the reality. In the meantime, I am going to continue to focus on doing the work I love, embrace every moment of every day, and spend time with the people I love so much.

Life truly has a lot of challenges lately, but there is not a single moment that goes by that I do not count my blessings for the life I have been given.

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for the support, and most of all, the love and compassion you have shown the kids and I.