To begin with, Laura’s condition was mistaken for inflammation of breast tissue. A biopsy later confirmed this was a misdiagnosis. It was indeed inflammatory breast cancer that had spread to lymph nodes and to a rib. Laura considered chemotherapy at first, but after two rounds, there was no improvement in her condition. Devastated, Laura was left with no options.
Clinical Trial – Worth the ChanceFor cancer patients, there are a number of barriers that stand between them and clinical trial access. Often people don't know if their insurance will cover them for a clinical trial. Many aren't aware of which clinical trials are available. Travel costs may be prohibitive. In America, only 8% of cancer patients diagnosed with rare or aggressive cancer are considered for clinical trials.
Luckily, Laura came across an oncologist who suggested she participate in a clinical trial. Laura had her doubts about undergoing an experimental treatment using an "investigational medical product," but it was take the risk or face certain death. Although there were many criteria for the trial, Laura made the decision and was ready to go through with it, at any cost.
The trial had already been closed, but within 30 days of her application, Laura was accepted under a compassionate-use waiver, meaning her life situation was critical. She became trial patient #985. Throughout the trial, Laura experienced many emotional, physical, and financial challenges but family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers helped in so many ways to keep her going.
Within 6 months, the clinical trial drug had shrunk her tumor enough to make her a candidate for surgical treatment. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy during which 19 lymph nodes were surgically removed. Then surgeons removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes. This was followed by 42 days of radiation therapy and then reconstructive surgery.
In May 2015, 44-years old Laura was declared cancer-free. Her cancer was officially declared "NED" meaning No Evidence of Disease.
Now she is living a healthy life and considers herself lucky. She often shares her story with people and communities to champion the cause of easy and increased access to clinical trials. She is an author and speaker. She has also written a book to help newly diagnosed cancer patients learn what to expect: This is Cancer – Everything You Need to Know, from the Waiting Room to the Bedroom.