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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Good News From Stanford!!!!!

Tuesday at Stanford was not what I expected, but in the end it all turned out good, and even better than good. A day that started with me fretting needlessly ended many hours later with me learning I have better odds than previously thought for my long-term survival!!

First I had my appointment to fix my port in Interventional Radiology, which you might recall was a disaster last May when doctors both misled me and botched what should have been a simple procedure.

But yesterday I met Dr. William Kuo and his team, who more than made up for my previous bad experience. The original plan was to fix the old port by threading a wire through a vein in my groin to my heart, then pulling the drug-delivering tube connected to my port to back into place. Dr. Kuo said he was afraid it could slip out of place again (leading me to believe the tube wasn’t long enough in the first place).

His solution was to cut me open again and install a new port and tube, which was the last thing I wanted to do. But with nurse Ryan holding my hand, he explained that they could thread the tube along the same route as the original one, up through a vein in my neck and down to my heart. I had no choice, really, since I need the port to have Herceptin, a drug that can cure me, infused every three weeks for the next year. I agreed.

I was wheeled into the operating room and given some cocktail of drugs that didn’t make me unconscious, but I did go to sleep. However I could answer if they asked me a question.

With the first port I suffered unbearable pain and, because of the tube in my neck, couldn’t turn my head for nearly 7 weeks. Today I feel fine. The incision doesn’t even really hurt very much and I can turn my head as if nothing happened. And the nurses in the infusion lab were able to use the port that day without incident to give me my first does of Herception, my key to long-term survival.

Until yesterday I thought it was my only key to survival (besides my lifestyle changes). But my visit with Dr. Mollick, aka Dr. Nice, brought more good news.

All of this time I had thought my type of HER2pos cancer was what is called “non-hormonal receptive,” which means that cancer-slowing drugs that can affect hormone levels would not work for me. The first oncologist with whom Michelle and I met in Fresno gave us that diagnosis and said it was bad news. We wrote it down and our hearts sank.

Well yesterday Dr. Mollick told me I’d be starting soon on Tamoxifen, a drug that interrupts the estrogen hormone. “You’ll take it for 5 years,” he said.

I was elated and confused. I’m a candidate for another drug that can stop my cancer from recurring, but why had I thought otherwise all of these months?

Dr. Mollick called today, after I was less dopy from the surgery, and explained. This is the reason Stanford researchers wanted to do their own tests on my biopsy and slides, which they had me bring from Fresno back in May at the time of my first appointment.

The Stanford tests showed I am 40 percent hormonal positive. It’s obviously not as high as 95 percent, which some women score, but not as bad as 5 percent, the cutoff for receiving Tamoxifen.

As Dr. Mollick explained: “Combined with Herceptin, you now have multiple lines of treatment and each give you a big survival kick. It reduces not only recurrences, but deaths. Your tumor has to figure out multiple ways” to multiply again. “The drug has been widely studied, it’s easy to take and it’s another piece of your armor.”

Thank you Stanford! And thank you researchers who invented Herceptin and Tamoxifen!

It’s overwhelming to think that people devote their lives to helping people like me live ours.

5 Responses to “Good News From Stanford!!!!!”

  • Fran:

    Great news! So glad you got the hell out of Dodge for treatment. Don’t you owe me a phone call? xoxo

  • Bryan:

    You and your armor rock! As does the ever-wonderful Dr Mollick. And Michelle too! What a great, if a little rummy, day in Palo Alto. May it give you strength and courage going into next week.

    Big love,

  • suzann ball:

    Yippee! Great news…

  • Leslie Davis:

    Great news Tracie! Stay strong and positive my thoughts and prayers are with you and Michelle always.



  • Judi:

    T, Before you know it you will be back at work and all this will be behind you. xoxoJ

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