Tracie Cone has always been a trailblazer. This award-winning journalist is the former California Newspaper Executive of the Year. She shares a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members at the Miami Herald for coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew and has twice been nominated individually. She has focused her writing on helping the underdog and empowering those without a strong voice of their own. Now she takes us on the fight of her life.
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Another Last, Then a First

People comment to me all the time “hasn’t this summer gone by quickly?”

Uh, no. It has been the longest of my life. Every minute has crept as if it were 15. You are adrenal-ized crazy people speeding through life, so of course your summer sped quickly. If you find a way to slow down, time will slow too.

Because my current fulltime job is healing, I live in the moment now whether I want to or not. Some of those moments have been pure torture; others filled with love and joy.

This was the summer I spent learning about my will to live. This was the summer I learned that love and friendship can carry a person through anything. This was also the summer I learned to put real suffering in perspective. I would not have learned those things if time had sped by me.

As time has passed, so have the milestones I use to measure my progress. Today I’m happy to mark the passing of another “last.” Just like I celebrated my last round of chemo Sept. 21, today, 21 days later, I celebrate taking my last dose of the trial drug Lapatinib.

They are the bright orange horse-sized pills I’ve taken every day on an empty stomach to boost the chemo Taxatere. It’s a drug normally given to people after their cancers have metastasized. Mine, thankfully, has not, but the trial is to see if giving the drug up front will stop that from happening to me down the road.

They have blistered my mouth and caused my skin to break out in itchy rashes, but it’s better than getting cancer again. I’m hopeful that whatever researchers learn from my experiences will help make someone else’s a little easier.

On Tuesday I head back to Stanford for a variety of reasons: I’ll get the results of my MRI to see how small my breast tumors have shrunk in preparation for my mastectomy Oct. 20, I’ll have a angiogram-like procedure to fix my blankedey blank port, then, once it’s operational again, I’ll get my first infused dose of Herceptin, the biological agent designed to turn off the gene that makes my type of cancer grow.

I’ll need that every three weeks for a year. By October 2011 I’ll be done.

So no, my summer hasn’t passed quickly. Then again, I would not have been able to accomplish quite so much if it had.

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