The power of cancer research is getting it to the patients; it doesn’t help to keep it in the lab. As I learn more, I gain more ammunition – more arrows in my quiver – to help patients and family members find the treatments they need.Elaine Newcomb, stage IV survivor
In May 2009, I went to the emergency room with gallbladder issues, thinking I needed it removed. An ultrasound was ordered, and to my surprise, lesions on my liver were found. Two days later, my gallbladder was removed and a biopsy of my liver was taken. Nine years after a perfectly normal colonoscopy, I was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.
I was looking death in the eye. How could this happen? Within two weeks, I had another surgery to remove 14 inches of my bowel, and had a meeting with the Chief Oncologist at the Huntsman Cancer Center of Salt Lake City, Utah. He explained to me what had occurred over the past two weeks, and gave me no hope of a future. Using words like, “terminal,” “no hope,” and “get your affairs in order.” Talk about gobsmacked!
When I asked about other options, his recommendation was a recheck in six weeks to see how fast the cancer was growing. I kid you not, those were his exact words! After that meeting, my husband and I, along with our four adult children, began seeking a second opinion. We weren’t giving up hope.
My Knight in Shining Scrubs
Because my cancer had spread to the liver, I sought a liver cancer specialist. The one nearest me was Dr. David A. Geller of the University of Pittsburgh Liver Cancer Center. I knew right away he was going to be my “knight in shining surgical scrubs!”
After eight weeks of chemotherapy, liver surgery, and 10 weeks of adjuvant treatment, I was pronounced to have no evidence of disease (NED). The next five years I faced the fear of the unknown, wondering if the cancer would come back, if it would spread to somewhere new, or if I would have to go through chemo again.
Now, 10 years later, I’m on a mission to make a difference. To encourage patients and caregivers, help them find treatment options, search for new research, and do anything else I can to help them navigate a colorectal cancer diagnosis.
Becoming a Research Advocate
After attending the first Research Advocacy Training and Support (RATS) meeting, I was asked to join. I felt that was where I belonged. My professional background is in biological science, and research is part of that. Over the years as a RATS member, I’ve toured so many great institutions and watched research come alive right before my eyes.
Paying it Forward
The most satisfying thing I’ve done as a research advocate is being a curator of clinical trials. Just as I found Dr. Geller 10 years ago, this is a way to help SO MANY colorectal cancer patients find treatment options. Navigating thousands of clinical trials is intimidating, and counterproductive to most, but the Fight CRC Clinical Trial Finder makes it easy, and I’m proud to contribute to it as a curator.
Fight CRC is funding groundbreaking research programs to end colorectal cancer, like the Research Advocacy Training Program. When you support Fight CRC, you directly support colorectal cancer patients like Elaine. Donate today!