Marilyn is a metastatic breast cancer survivor. I joined her when she went to M.D. Anderson Cancer Center for ongoing treatments. She was diagnosed as HER-2 Positive. S This means that there is the possibility that the cancer could return. he returns to the hospital every three weeks for treatments. On this trip she was getting an IV of the targeted drug Herceptin. A nurse explained how the drug works. Hormones are what make tumors grow. Herceptin binds to receptors thus blocking them from triggering tumor growth. Yolanda took Marilyn's vitals. Marilyn has been to M.D. Anderson many times before. She has already lived through the rigors of chemotherapy. The Herceptin treatments have been working.
There is a small subdural port permanently inserted in Marilyn's upper chest. This allows for the insertion of the IV tube without any pain. She pulled open the neck in her T shirt so the nurse could hook up the IV. Marilyn outlined the many subtle changes in hospital policy she has seen over the years. The newest policy is that every patient must wear identification bracelets. She feels that the nursing staff at M.D. Anderson are the best. The nurses are skilled and do their work with compassion. Volunteers at the center are cancer survivors themselves and volunteering is their way to give back.
Marilyn's relaxed demeanor made it obvious that this is part of a regular routine. She was offered a box lunch and gladly accepted. "You should see the bills, of course I'm going to have lunch", she joked. Having sat through so many treatments over the years, she can quickly see when someone is new to the process. She makes sure to talk to them offering hope and reassurance. Besides the treatments, Marilyn exercises. Exercise is the one thing she can do to personally improve her health, the one thing she can control. She takes Zumba Latin dance classes, aqua aerobics and Tai Chi. She now has a blog that chronicles her fight against breast cancer. As she said, "Everyday in every way I am getting better and stronger." These are strong and inspiring words to live by.