Cervivor visits Advaxis

Clinical trials continue to be a mystery to many individuals. On September 30th, 2017 Cervivor, along with several advocacy groups, had the great opportunity of gathering at Advaxis for a collaborative meeting to learn more about clinical trials and how they can impact the future of cancer treatment, including innovations in the area of cervical cancer treatment.

Through innovation, collaboration, and dedication we can help improve the accessibility of clinical trials to patients; therefore, increasing participation in clinical trial research. This research is necessary to introduce cervical cancer treatment options with lower risks and side effects.

Dr. Sharad Ghamande of Georgia is at the forefront of clinical trial research and application in his gynecologic oncology practice. As he noted, “Cervical cancer is the worst cancer for women worldwide.” There has to be a more effective way to treat this prevalent cancer.

Next, we headed out for a tour. This was one of the most amazing things we were able to do while at Advaxis! We started out by learning how the clinical trials Advaxis is currently running were developed and are progressing and then we actually got to head out into the building and see where the action happened! There were people hard at work throughout the building and you could tell the dedication to improving cancer care was in the air. One of the employees told us that he started working there because he knew, there just had to be a better way to treat cancer.

I was honored to serve on a panel with Dr. Ghamande and John Heyburn of Advaxis to discuss clinical trials. I served on the panel to bring the patient perspective to the discussion. Over the past several months I have been researching clinical trials, applying to many trials, and recently began participation in a clinical trial. As a panel, we discussed many barriers in the current clinical trial structure: many individuals do not know what a clinical trial is or that they may be eligible for one; some clinicians only offer clinical trials as a last resort, or, not at all; and some patients become frustrated with the process it takes to participate in a clinical trial once they begin.

As a patient who recently went through the process of finding a clinical trial I can tell you that it was stressful at times. I was declined from one trial due to the fact that another site filled the open slot before I could begin testing to see if I qualified, I was declined from another clinical trial due to the fact that I had been treated with a specific chemo on two separate occasions, an additional trial I missed out on due to my insurance declining an accompanying medication while the open slot filled up. As a patient, I felt defeated and scared. I was terrified due to the fact that while all of this searching was going on I was not being treated. Once we found a clinical trial to apply to I had to start a battery of tests to ensure that I would be able to participate. I was so worried that something would happen and I would end up not qualifying I didn’t even tell anyone I was starting a trial until I was physically hooked up to the infusion.

Serving on this panel was an amazing experience for me. I was honored to sit around the table with leadership from many organizations and share my experiences with them. It is amazing the power of a patient voice.

Are you currently in treatment for cervical cancer or recently in remission? There may be a clinical trial that is available which could meet your treatment needs. There are trials which work with concurrent treatment for active cancer and even trials which are available post-treatment to help ensure that you stay in remission. Reach out to Cervivor if you would like more information about clinical trials. Also, check out our clinical trial section on our website at https://cervivor.org/hpv-and-cervical-cancer/treatment-clinical-trials/.

To read more about Erica’s story check here: www.t0g.ce7.mywebsitetransfer.com/erica

Embracing My Body and its Accomplishments

As I finish up my shower and move to standing in front of the mirror brushing my teeth then putting coconut oil on my legs and doing my skin routine— all with nothing on but my hair wrapped up in a towel, I am reminded how I used to feel about my body, and I smile as I think about how I am now embracing my body. Flawed and scarred, tall and crooked, it’s uniquely mine for better or worse. I didn’t always feel so comfortable in it. In fact, just prior to my cancer diagnosis I went on a diet for six months to shed 30 pounds because I couldn’t stand the way I looked.

When I was diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer the course of treatment was a lymph node dissection, external radiation, brachytherapy, and chemotherapy. The night before having my lymph nodes removed, I caught myself in the mirror, naked, and stopped to really look at myself. For the first time ever I saw a beautiful woman. I took time to admire my body for what it had already done. It birthed two children, learned how to walk again after back surgery, and it was about to beat cancer. I knew it was the last good look I’d get at myself before everything about it changed. I had no idea. No amount of googling can prepare you for what treatment will do to your body because everyone’s outcome is so varied, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same.

Standing there that night after finishing my surgery prep instructions, I saw myself on a deeper level. Even with cancer inside of me and the feeling that my body was turning against me, I decided I loved it. In the end, my body came through for me and fought, healed, and became stronger again. Our bodies are remarkable. I wish it hadn’t taken cancer for me to realize it. Society has taught women that they should never put themselves first and that their bodies are open to public and self-scrutiny. It’s a double standard, but I digress.

A well nourished, healthy body is something to have gratitude for, even if that means your particular body stores fat in areas you’d prefer it didn’t. We have the ability to change how it looks to an extent if we want to, in whatever way suits us. The same goes for other elements of your appearance that you might not like. For example, a friend of mine had always been insecure about her teeth, but since visiting a Dentist in Middletown for a teeth whitening treatment, her confidence and self-esteem have soared. She has not stopped smiling since and I cannot emphasize how happy she seems. I’m a little over a year out of treatment now and whenever I’m around my mom and gobbling down my meal, she becomes emotional. At first I was confused. What was the big deal? And she said “it just makes me so happy to see you eating.” Not too long ago she was desperate for me to hold down one bite. I’m grateful for her perspective and simultaneously can’t imagine what she went through as a mother. It is proof that I am loved and thus deserve to love myself. This body and I have been through a lot. Instead of wishing something was different, I think about what it can do. My daughter deserves the example I set by taking care of myself and taking pride in my body. I hope that it keeps me alive for a good, long time.