Meet Nancy. This is her story, in her own words…
“I’m going to go to Heaven a little early and getting a good table. When you get there, look for me…”
It was in February 1991 that I met Donna. We worked together at a local technology company and quickly became friends. I had no idea how important her brief friendship would be to me.
Fairly soon into our friendship, Donna shared with me that she had breast cancer and had been fighting it for years. But this time, it had metastasized to her bones. She was once again facing radiation and chemotherapy and would no longer be able to work.
I felt awkward when I finally got up the nerve to ask her if she would share what she was going through. I felt strongly that I needed to learn more about breast cancer. It was in my family, and I feared someone I was close to would be faced with the disease—whether it was my mother, my sister, a friend, or even me.
Throughout Donna’s treatments, we met for lunch at The Mason Jar–a cozy restaurant that specialized in home-style meals. When we arranged a time over the phone to meet, she would always tell me that she would go a little early and get a good table. She had lost her beautiful shoulder-length dark hair to chemotherapy, and in its place she wore a favorite light blue cap. When I arrived at the restaurant, I searched for that little blue cap and would find her in a comfortable booth, smiling and waving me over.
Our lunches dwindled, as her cancer selfishly demanded more of her energy. In their place, we nurtured our friendship by phone. Her last call to me was on a cold October day in 1993. At a recent appointment, her oncologist predicted she had only six months to live. She sobbed as she told me how her pain had become unbearable, and she didn’t think she could hold on for that long. I told her I didn’t want her to suffer anymore and if she needed to go earlier than six months, I’d miss her terribly, but I understood. Donna and I believed in God and Heaven, and toward the end of our final conversation, she tearfully said, “I’m going to go to Heaven a little early and get a good table. When you get there, look for me and we’ll have lunch together again.” She passed away about 3 weeks after that phone call.
I knew breast cancer had changed my life as I sat in the pew at her memorial service and reflected on what I had learned from her. I knew she was in my life for a reason.
A few months after Donna went to Heaven, her husband called and said it was Donna’s wish that her girlfriends have her clothing. There was only one thing I really wanted and since I was the third girlfriend of Donna’s he had called, I wasn’t sure it would still be there. Tears of joy ran down my cheeks when I found tucked away in her closet a symbol of happy memories and our friendship. Her little blue cap.
In July of 1995, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34. Only one year and eight months after Donna had died of breast cancer at the age of 34. My memories of what I learned from her helped make it easier for me to go through my first time with cancer treatment. Donna was a “hugger” and her memories continue hugging me to this day.
In July of 2008, I faced the same “Breast Cancer – Stage IV – Metastasized to Bone” diagnosis that she did over 18 years ago. I received radiation treatments and am currently taking hormone therapy. I’m grateful my cancer is not spreading any further for the time being and I’m learning to live with the fatigue and pain it brings.
When I hear my cell phone alarm throughout the day reminding me to take my pain medication, I’m thankful drugs have improved over the years. It took me a few tries with my doctor’s guidance, but I found a pain reliever that does not make me drowsy. By taking my pills on a schedule, my pain is completely controlled.
I’ve contributed money toward cancer research for years and have been involved with walks to raise money as well. But when I saw Dr. Susan Love on the Today Show and heard her describe what the Army of Women was all about, I had the reaction of a small child on Christmas morning. It gave me such a feeling of excitement to be able to use this body of mine, even though it’s sick, to help make a difference. I’ve only been eligible for one study so far, but it was a wonderful day when I drove to the hospital and a nurse drew blood from my arm and shipped it to the scientists working on a specific project. Just think…my blood sample could be part of getting us one step closer to understanding breast cancer better and finding a cure! I’ve never been that excited about giving money! And even if it’s not my blood, the nurse who took my blood at the hospital had not heard about Army of Women and she was very interested. I’m sure she told at least one other person who told at least one other person and that ripple effect will definitely make a difference too.
I am so grateful for Dr. Susan Love and all the others who put this idea of an Army of Women together and are making it happen. Even if the cure is not found in my lifetime, I know Army of Women is going to find it and I am so proud to be a part of it. Donna would have been proud to be a part of it too.
Call to Action
Living with Metastatic Breast Cancer? The Army of Women needs you! Learn about this new study here.
Share Your Story
Everyone’s story is welcome. Submit your video (or written story) at: http://www.armyofwomen.org/It_Takes_an_Army_Project
How You Can Help Research
The Army of Women is currently recruiting women who have Metastatic Breast Cancer for the Phase Ib Trial of 2nd Generation Designer T Cells in Metastatic Breast Cancer. The researcher would like to enroll about 12 people in this study.
Learn more about this study here - Phase Ib Trial of 2nd Generation Designer T Cells in Metastatic Breast Cancer. The full list of open studies seeking volunteers are listed at: www.armyofwomen.org/current.
The “It Takes an Army Video” Collection: Yours Stories & Videos
The full collection of videos will be at:http://www.armyofwomen.org/It_Takes_an_Army_Videos -
Embed code is available on our YouTube Channel at:http://www.youtube.com/loveavonarmyofwomen
Additional videos will be added throughout the month of October and beyond.
A program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, the Army of Women is a unique partnership between researchers at top universities and women who want to help find the cause of breast cancer so we can learn how to prevent it. To date, the Foundation has recruited more than 359,000 women (and some men) into the Army of Women program, with 50,000 of those volunteers engaged in helping 52 breast cancer studies.
After signing up at www.armyofwomen.org, members are then contacted via email blast about new studies seeking volunteers. They can either sign-up for the studies online, or if they do not qualify, they are encouraged to forward the information to a friend or family member. Every woman over 18 is welcome to participate, whether a breast cancer survivor or someone never affected.
There are currently more than 20 breast cancer studies seeking volunteers through the Army of Women. The studies are looking for a variety of women – some seek healthy women who have not had breast cancer; other studies need breastfeeding moms or pregnant women; another study needs women who have the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 or BRCA 2); a few studies are specifically seeking African American women; while some studies are looking for menopausal and post-menopausal women; and another study is seeking those diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.
The full list of open studies seeking volunteers are listed at:www.armyofwomen.org/current.