Clinical trials are changing outcomes for cancer in British Columbia

April 25, 2018

Clinical trials are essential in our quest to deliver better treatment to patients here in BC. One such patient, Jacqueline Patrick, was diagnosed with breast cancer a number of years ago, but now is thriving. Like Ken and Danny, Jacquie, who is based in Chilliwack, BC, has agreed to share her story to shed light on the impact of trials on those facing cancer in our province.

She writes:

My back really hurt. It had been bothering me for some time, but I could no longer ignore it. On November 12, 2013, I  hobbled off to follow my doctor’s instructions to get an X-ray done.

I believe that I was still in emergency,  when I was told I had cancerous tumours in my spine. Tests had determined it was breast cancer that had spread.

The tumour was so small that the doctors were not able to feel it, and a mammogram was necessary to find it. How could such a little thing cause so much trouble? I had foolishly stopped having mammograms a few years previous to this, since cancer did not run in our family.

I was shipped off to the BC Cancer – Abbotsford centre for a series of radiation. By this time I was barely able to walk or sit because of the pain. It was very difficult,  but I had no choice.

I can’t remember when it was proposed that I might consider becoming part of a drug trial. I have no idea why they thought it might be helpful to me as I really was not in very good shape. My  clinical trial nurse, explained the trial to me: a randomised, double-blind, parallel-group, Multicentre, Phase III study to compare the efficacy and tolerability of Fulvestrant 500 mg with Anastrozole 1 mg. as hormonal treatment for postmenopausal women with hormone receptor-positive, locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer, who have not previously been treated with any hormonal therapy. I fit the bill.

I religiously did everything that I was told to do: I took my pill every morning, received my two injections monthly, and I went to see the oncologist, Dr. Shaikh, every month. I turned up for my bone scans and CT scans. I I was feeling better. I was feeling so much better in fact, that I planned a trip to Sri Lanka, where we had lived for five and a half years, to join my granddaughter for three weeks. It was amazing. I was alive and thriving.

It has now been over three years since my diagnosis. I am guessing that I am on the drug or dosage that the clinical trial was to either prove effective or not. I think that, by now, the cancer should have taken my life if I had not been on this trial, yet I am still thriving.

This has been quite a journey, but I have made a wonderful friend of my clinical trial nurse, who has walked with me throughout.   She is special and very dear to me. Dr. Shaikh, the oncologist, is a delight. He has not hidden his joy in the apparent success of my treatment.  

During my last visit to Dr. Shaikh, with a smile, he told me that he certainly didn’t expect me to be as good as I am at this point. The cancer is not spreading right now. Everyone with whom I have come in contact with at BC Cancer has been caring and kind.

I feel good about the fact that I may be a small part of a new treatment that may extend the length and quality of life of future cancer patients.  My family has been amazing, and being a woman of faith, I know that the prayers, of all my friends throughout the world, have been the reason that I am at peace.

My body and my spirit have both been cared for during this journey, upon which I have travelled thus far. I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to me through my participation in a drug trial, which has given hope, not only for me, but also for so many others to follow.

It has been a pleasure to blog these past two months about the importance of clinical trials at BC Cancer. Thank you for tuning in.

Dr. Eigl