Today, I had a unique opportunity. My cousin Audra works at the Van Andel Research Institute doing gene modification and she invited me to meet her co-worker Carrie Graveel, Ph.D. Carrie has been studying breast cancer for the last 10 years so I was thrilled to be able to talk with her about my diagnosis.
You have to get special clearance to even enter the building, so this was an amazing blessing. The building is very grand and the interior has a very modern, space-like or futuristic feeling. Once in a conference room, she explained that of all of the cancers to get, mine was the best because so much research has been done on the ER+/PR+ breast cancer (cancer that feeds on estrogen and progesterone). Also, this type of breast cancer has the best prognosis and the treatments are effective and have been researched for decades. This really made me feel relieved that a Ph.D. was suggesting I go ahead with the chemotherapy, surgery and radiation just like my M.D. I believe she said something to the effect of ‘Take everything they’ve got and get rid of the cancer before it spreads and you are dealing with an entirely different problem.’
When I asked about the holistic approach, Carrie said it has not been thoroughly tested and researched enough to rely on any of their treatments. She did, however, say that the immunotherapy route is probably going to be the best bet in the future, but it isn’t quite ready yet.
For now, my type of cancer fits nicely into the treatable category. If it were to come back with another pregnancy or in ten years from now, then she would suggest I do more of the experimental therapies such as an immunotherapy. In 5-10 years this and other therapies might be reliable alternative methods to chemotherapy, because new breakthroughs are coming out so rapidly.
At the end of our conversation, they gave me a mini tour of the labs. I got to see a breast cancer tumor in a test tube. It was awesome! The scale of how much it takes to do an experiment at this level is awe-inspiring.
Thank you Audra for being so incredibly pro-active in helping me learn more about my diagnosis.
Thank you Carrie for taking the time to meet with me. You not only further educated me, but gave me a reassurance that brings peace of mind.
I thank God for people like Audra, Carrie and the whole team at the Van Andel Research Institute for doing the research at the molecular level to help individuals like me regain health.