Wear White for a Future Immune to Cancer
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) has designated June as Cancer Immunotherapy Month. While the entire month is focused on bringing more awareness to the life-saving potential of immunotherapy, June 15th has been chosen as #WearWhite Day.
Why wear white?
According to CRI, the color white was chosen for the campaign because it:
- represents the cancer-fighting white blood cells in the immune system,
- symbolizes the lab coats worn by scientists and clinicians dedicated to finding cures for cancer, and
- is the color of all cancer awareness ribbons combined (I might add, it is also the color for lung cancer).
What is immunotherapy?
Only a few short years ago, I went to the emergency room at a major university hospital with a fever. I told them that I was receiving immunotherapy treatments for my lung cancer. The techs, nurses, and doctors looked at me like I had gone crazy. "Immunotherapy?" they asked. "What in the world is THAT?"
According to the American Cancer Society, immunotherapy is the "use of medicines to stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively."1 According to me, it is nothing short of a miracle.
Working with the immune system
Immunotherapy is not a cancer-specific drug. While it works against different cancers in different ways, the point is that it works.2 And, in most cases, it does so in a much gentler and kinder way than chemotherapy does.
Scientists, oncologists, and investors are all elated about the power of immunotherapy. It is seen by nearly everyone as the most exciting new cancer treatment approach since chemotherapies were first used in the 1940s. For patients, immunotherapy offers hope.
Immunotherapy and me
I didn't do particularly well when I received my first line treatment of chemotherapy. I was one of those people for whom anti-nausea medications didn't work and oh, did the chemo make me nauseous. Even today, five and half years later, thinking about it can make my stomach tie in knots. Besides nausea and vomiting, I was so fatigued that it was difficult to walk even very short distances.
There were times when I strongly considered stopping treatments because I am a big believer in quality over quantity. The quality of my life during that time was questionable at best.
Quality of life restored
Fast forward a few months to my entering a clinical trial and beginning treatment with an experimental immunotherapy (which was later FDA approved for lung cancer and other types of cancer). Suddenly, the quality of my life returned! I was being infused with a drug designed to fight my cancer, but I wasn't sick. And I wasn't tired. I was ecstatic! I became an "immunotherapy evangelist."
If you know me, you know about immunotherapy. My friends and family were far more educated about the treatment than those doctors at the ER were because I talk about it every chance I get. I want everyone to know about the treatment that could extend their lives by years and do so without making them so sick that they wonder if a longer life is even worth it.
Let's get the word out
You can help get the word out. Let's flood social media with white on June 15th so more and more people can learn about these lifesaving new cancer treatments! You can participate in the movement by taking a selfie of yourself wearing white and posting it to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and other social media outlets with the hashtag #WearWhite. I'll see you there!
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?