More and more good news is coming out, giving cancer patients hope. And more and more survivors are speaking out about their own experiences to encourage others in their cancer journey.
Kate Watson of Rocky River is one outstanding example. Six years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, Watson had not been feeling well during her third pregnancy. At the 18-week point, she was having some pain.
“The doctors said it was normal pregnancy changes. But it wasn’t,” Watson said.
She went for a genetic test to look for things like Down syndrome. The doctor said there was something odd about her chromosomes, which eventually pointed to a diagnosis of Her-2 Positive for breast cancer. Diagnosed initially with stage 4 cancer that they had thought was going to be stage 2, scans showed that the cancer had already spread to other parts of her body, including her bones.
She was only 35 years old.
Watson said Her-2 is like a protein in normal, healthy breast tissue, but in her body the protein went “a bit crazy and fueled the growth of cancer,” she said. “It’s like pouring gasoline on the cancer fire.”
As the initial diagnosis was unofficial, she was sent for expanded genetic testing, which found that the baby in her womb had three of every chromosome.
“Normally, there would be a miscarriage early, but 18 weeks was rare,” she said. Watson eventually miscarried the baby.
During the next six years, Watson heard from a lot of long-term cancer survivors who, she said, helped her endure and eventually become adjusted and very hopeful.
“Long-term survivors got me through in the early days,” she said, “so that’s why I am speaking out now.”
Watson sees cancer with what may be considered a different point of view than others who have cancer or others who fear a cancer diagnosis as though it means no hope. Not so, she says.
“I feel very lucky now,” she said. “I attribute that to the medicines available for me. The infusions I receive (a form of chemotherapy) have been around since the late 1990s, and if I were diagnosed before then, I would not be here.
“And there are advancements, exciting research projects happening every day that give me hope.”
She noted that the statistics for stage 4 are grim, the research is severely underfunded and there is no stated cure.
But, she said, “You have to remember you are your own statistic and you can’t give up on the hope the medicines available now will work for you and that the medicines coming down the pipeline will be even better and available sooner rather than later.”
Watson currently undergoes infusion therapy every three weeks at Cleveland Clinic-Avon Hospital. This week will be her 103rd infusion, which is “a monoclonal, targeted antibody treatment, a targeted chemotherapy,” she said.
“In the beginning, I did have to do the traditional chemo six times. And it wasn’t easy then. But it led to clean scans and now the infusions are to keep me healthy,” she said.
“If you were to walk by me on the street, you would never know I have cancer.”
Kate is married to Scott and is the mother of two young daughters, now turning 8 and 11 years old.
She participates in Cleveland Clinic’s cancer fundraiser, VeloSano. Prior to COVID-19, she organized a bike ride to raise money for the cause. She and her husband continue the involvement.
“We support VeloSano’s Bike-To-Cure weekend,” she said, noting that 100 percent of all money raised goes to cancer research.