Cecily's Pioneering Will to Fight
I am deeply moved whenever I think of what Cec said to me in early 2004 after she had discovered one of the very few cutting edge Oncologists who is today practicing 21st Century "translational medicine" in lung cancer --- taking today's lab discoveries which will become the official treatment in 10-15 years, and actually using these discoveries in the front line battle right now!
Many drugs already in existence for other purposes have been demonstrated to be effective in fighting various cancers. Each drug seems to hit a specific "target" molecule on the cancer cell, helping to shut that cell down. Cec became one of the first lung cancer patients to undergo treatment with this early incarnation of Molecular Targeted Therapy --- essentially the "Cancer Cocktail" --- adding many more potential drugs to her arsenal than with the conventional FDA protocol still practiced by virtually every major medical institution in America (as of 2004).
In her first 3-week cycle of Molecular Targeted Treatment in January, the cancer marker numbers in Cecily's blood went from accelerating at 100% per cycle under the FDA standard treatment that she had been receiving for 9 weeks while at the "Cedars Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Care Center," to a DE-acceleration of 66% per cycle with Molecular Targeted Therapy and change of Chemo under her new cutting-edge Oncologist. (In the cancer world, going from an acceleration per cycle of 100% down to just 33% in 3 weeks is an out-of-the-park homerun. Or as Cec's soft spoken new Oncologist said in understatement, these first results were "showing great promise.")
Next needing to be accomplished in the immediate future was additional radiation to stop extreme bone pain. Although the spread of cancer in her bone had stopped, and all of her vital organs were clean of any tumors aside from the original, to see the pain that the lack of proper radiation while at Cedars was now causing Cec was enough to cause us all pain --- but fortunately all that was needed was a week's worth of added radiation now scheduled to come, just as soon as a couple of textbook procedures were performed to stop the build-up of cancerous fluids around Cecily's heart and lungs. And because of her youth, Cec's immune system was very strong --- she fought off a pneumonia in a matter of days that likely would have killed a more elderly patient.
Within a week , Cecily's Oncologist was planning, Cec would be free of bone pain and also the danger of additional fluid build-up around the heart and lungs, and be able to move forward again with the Molecular Targeted Treatments as even more drugs were planned for addition to the first "cocktail" formula that Cecily had tolerated so well. And two new drugs already-FDA approved, Erbitux and Avastin, which had shown great promise in their years and years of cancer testing, were just around the corner. Although denied to Cecily when she applied for these drugs under the "Expanded Access Law" designed to get existing drugs to critically ill patients without having to wait for the formal product launch, these 2 new drugs would none-the-less be available in pharmacies by the middle of March. Soon they too were planned as a part of the cocktail that we had dubbed "Cecily's Oil."
As Jim wrote during that time period in his nightly e-mail:
I asked [Cec]
tonight if she had any inclination toward giving up. She
said, emphatically, "No!." She said that what she's dealing with at present
is, in her words, no worse than someone who's been in a car wreck and broken
both legs. It feels awful, but nobody gives up and wants to die because of
it. I asked her if she was tired of the fight. She said sure she was, the
same way she was tired of getting up at 4 a.m. to make Maddie a bottle.
It's exhausting, but you still do it. I told someone today that if I
suggested she quit going through this process and just come home and let us
make her comfortable and help her enjoy her last days, she'd jump out of bed
and hunt me down and shoot me.
I asked [Cec's new Oncologist]
he was anywhere near giving up on Cec, and he guffawed. This Doctor, I should
make clear, is an incredibly soft-spoken man whom I've never heard chuckle
out loud. When he's cracking up, he only smiles. And he guffawed when I
asked him that. He said, "Good lord, no, we're just getting started. The
things we've just begun using are already showing great promise, and in the
next couple of weeks we're going to have some wonderful new tools. And
we're growing Cecily's cancer cells in the lab and will be able to develop
drug combinations to specifically target Cecily's cancer."
Cecily's resolve and tenacity in not giving up, and now with the Molecular Targeted Treatment having demonstrated results that went beyond our best expectations, gave Cec every reason to feel that in the foreseeable many months ahead, a future with Maddie was inevitable --- even as she continued to write her very personal letters to Maddie each night in the event that anything unexpected caused a turn for the worse.
On thinking about the near future, Cec was talking to me about the coming summer and Maddie's 3rd birthday on August 19th. And Cec said to me with her bright smile and sense of idealism, "The thing that I'm looking forward to the most is taking Maddie to Disneyland for the first time." Cec sounded like a little girl. That statement spoke of her steadfast conviction to fight no matter what the personal pain, to have every chance for every future day possible with Maddie and Jim --- and with life. She would tell any doctor with whom she met that she wanted the most aggressive treatment possible, that she would endure any pain for the chance it might bring for a future with her little girl.
Cecily was a pioneer in Molecular Targeted Therapy, and with great success. To the end, the new treatment continued to de-accelerate the spread of cancer in Cecily's body. Tragically, her pioneering effort was cut short by untreated cancerous fluids that had accumulated at the base of her lung. Cecily's spirit of being a pioneer, though, and of her unflinching will to endure any amount of discomfort for a shot at a future with her baby daughter even if it would be on a month-by-month basis, is inspirational and can never die. Her strength of character, loving nature, and renaissance idealism in the way she looked at the world and approached her life will live on in everyone who gets to know about Cecily from the enormity of herself that she left behind on this planet. As this web site grows over the years, it will seek to preserve and present the essence of Cecily's true spirit both to those who knew her, and to those who are just getting to know her.