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Cancer Warriors Wednesday - Katherine Russell Rich and 17+ Years as a Stage 4 Survivor

I recently stumbled across a New York Time’s article written by Katherine Russell Rich entitled, 17 Years Later, Stage 4 Survivor Is Savoring a Life Well Lived.” Katherine is the author of “Dreaming in Hindi: Coming Awake in Another Language” and “The Red Devil: To Hell With Cancer — and Back.”  (Amazon associates link) The article begins with her revelation that every January 15th she visits a website to announce to others with stage 4 breast cancer that, “I’m still here.”

The average life expectancy of someone with Katherine’s diagnosis is 30 months. To explain her extraordinary survival, she can only say, “You just don’t know, and neither, unfortunately, does the medical field.”

The medical field doesn’t know any more than we do because not one doctor specializes in the "why" of long term survival. Further, as breast surgeon Dr. Susan Love of the Army of Women told Katherine, “many clinical trials are funded by the drug companies to run for five years,” which obviously tells us nothing about long term survival.”

Katherine goes on to say that the research done by Dr. Love‘s foundation "was inspired by a colleague who told her that in World War II, aviation experts focused on planes that went down until someone said, “Why aren’t we studying the planes that stay up in the air?”

Last year, Andrea Mitchell announced that she is “now among the 1 in 8 women in this country -- incredibly 1 in 8 -- who have had breast cancer." She went on to say that, "For you women out there and for the men who love you, screening matters. Do it. This disease can be completely curable if you find it at the right time." Her statement, though personal in nature, created a firestorm, because of the false impression that early detection leads to cure. The truth is that it does not and, even for those of us diagnosed with non-invasive stage 0 cancer, we are no more able to use the word “cured” than is Katherine.

There's just too much that we do not know about prevention, cure and long term survival. But, we know a lot about the power of hope and activism. If you want to get involved helping move research forward, take a look at the studies listed on the Army of Women website. Maybe you will find a study which interests you and for which you are qualified. Even if you don’t, I hope you consider signing up and joining the Army of Women today. We are all at risk, and research into prevention and cure is crucially necessary so we can all continue to say, "I'm still here."

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