Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 39

CLINICAL TRIALS

cheering me on. I thanked them because
they are what helped me get here.
At times, the path to participation in a
clinical trial felt like navigating unknown
territory without a map. Fortunately, I found
my way with help and guidance from other
cancer patients who have walked this path.
In the years since my diagnosis, I had
befriended other survivors; some living
beyond cancer, many in standard treatment,
and others trying something different: clinical trials. Before meeting them, I believed
clinical trials were only for patients whose
hope was waning. But the way these friends
talked about clinical trials was different
and exciting: trials aren't just an option
for those out of options, they are the future
of medicine.
Trials and science need us just as much
as we need them.
I observed as friends shared innovations,
celebrated each others' successes and offered support at every unexpected turn.
They weren't just helping each other with
the emotional burden of cancer, they were
exchanging ideas and information to help
each other have the best possible outcome.
This concrete support was something I never expected. Their enthusiasm was contagious. I started researching trials for myself.

I can be indecisive and tend to overthink
things when it comes to important decisions, so having time and on my side was
imperative. When I first started looking for
a trial, I was fortunate enough to be stable
on an effective, tolerable treatment. This
gave me time to research trials and pick
one without feeling pressured.
I started by asking my oncologist to run
a biomarkers test to understand the genetic
profile of my cancer. I learned that there
are too many trials for any one person to be
familiar with all of them, but clinical trial
finders and data from my biomarker testing
helped me find some promising options to
present to my oncologist. He was invaluable
in helping me whittle down my list.
Over the next year, I became a student of
my own disease. I asked survivor friends,
used hashtags, and did internet searches to
look for any information on the trials I was
interested in. I made innumerable calls to
clinical research coordinators (CRCs), who
are often an initial point of contact; and
are a key resource when you are trying to
decide if a trial is the right fit. I found out
that being accepted to a trial takes time and
is not always as simple as making sure you
fit the inclusion criteria; some have waitlists
and some are starved for patients. I traveled

Conversation

to meet a few trial teams, and submitted
records to many others.
Whenever I got to a fork in the road, I
went back to my survivor friends and asked
for help. I discovered entire online patient
support communities dedicated to clinical
trial enrollment and participation.
I was doing it, but I definitely wasn't
alone.
Eventually, I picked a trial. It was everything I wanted: it combined novel treatments with proven ones, was tumor-specific, and it was close to home. That's what
landed me on the fifth f loor that day, right
at my own cancer center.
Looking back: the feeling of my first day
on f loor five was no accident. The common
misconception that clinical trials are only
used as a last resort has led to an overwhelming number of heavily pretreated
patients seeking trials as a last resort. This
explains the stark difference I felt on the
fifth floor. But it shouldn't be this way. Clinical trials are an option for everyone, and
an opportunity to take a new path, blazing
a trail toward better outcomes.
The future of cancer care lies in our
willingness to walk into the unknown. l
JESSICA BUSCHO

J E S SIC A BUS C HO IS A 3Y E A R S TAGE I V C OL ON C A NC E R PAT I E N T A N D SU RV I VOR .
SH E L I V E S A F U L L L I F E A S A L OV I NG W I F E , MOM OF 3, F R I E N D TO M A N Y, A N D
I NSPI R AT ION TO E V E RYON E SH E M E E T S . SH E IS K NOW N FOR H E R OU TG OI NGN E S S ,
T E NAC I T Y, FA I T H, A N D C ON TAGIOUS Z E S T FOR L I F E . I N C A NC E R SU PP ORT
C OM M U N I T I E S , SH E C A N BE FOU N D E NC OU R AGI NG OT H E R S W I T H HON E S T Y,
OPE N N E S S , A N D U N E N DI NG OP T I M ISM . BE T W E E N T R E AT M E N T S , SH E SPE N DS
H E R T I M E VOLU N T E E R I NG FOR H E R C H I L DR E N ' S S C HO OL , L E A DI NG A GI R L
S C OU T T RO OP, H E L PI NG AT SE V E R A L NON PROF I T S , OR L E N DI NG A H A N D TO
A N YON E I N N E E D. J E S SIC A IS A L I F E L ONG L E A R N E R ; A S A PAT I E N T, T H IS H A S
H E L PE D H E R S TAY I N FOR M E D A B OU T PRO GR E S S A N D BR E A K T H ROUGH S I N
C A NC E R T R E AT M E N T. SH E IS E N T H USI A S T IC A B OU T H E R PA S SIONS  ON E OF
W H IC H IS SU PP ORT I NG H E R A L M A M AT E R , UC DAV IS G O AG S!. A N Y C H A NC E
SH E GE T S , J E S SIC A SPE N DS T I M E I N NAT U R E A N D C ONSI DE R S H E R SE L F A N
OU T D O OR A N D NAT IONA L PA R K E N T H USI A S T. W H E N J E S SIC A WA S DI AGNOSE D
W I T H S TAGE I V C OL OR E C TA L C A NC E R AT AGE 33, SH E DI DN ' T L E T T H E
DI AGNOSIS GE T I N T H E WAY OF H E R PA S SIONS . I F A N Y T H I NG , SH E G A I N E D A N E W
PA S SION: A DVO C AT I NG FOR OT H E R S TO BE C OM E MOR E I N FOR M E D A B OU T T H E I R
OW N H E A LT H A N D C OM PL E T E A PPROPR I AT E C A NC E R S C R E E N I NG S . FOR J E S SIC A ,
L I F E IS ON E GR E AT A DV E N T U R E A N D SH E IS T RU LY L I V I NG W I T H C A NC E R .

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
DECEMBER 2020

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Elephants And Tea - December 2020

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Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Contents
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