A Heavy Heart and A Little Hope

As I was reading through some of my regular blogs yesterday I found out that a woman I “knew” passed away Thanksgiving morning from breast cancer. It wasn’t her first fight with the disease, but she was an incredible soldier until the very end. My prayers for comfort are with her family as they grieve the passing of their wife and mother.

We hear so much about “survivors” we sometimes tend to forget not everyone is a survivor. Detection and treatment have come so far in recent years, leading to greater chances of survival. And yet there are still too many women who die from this disease every year.

This news was shared by Gina at No Surrender. Gina is the fiercest of warriors and breast cancer needs to stand up and take notice. Not only is she currently dealing with her second bout of breast cancer, she also runs a breast cancer board and a website – both incredible resources for anybody either dealing with breast cancer personally or through someone they love.

She also posted the following article. As a survivor and a daughter of a survivor, I find this very exciting in light of the fact I have two sisters and a daughter of my own.

Trials Underway For Breast Cancer Vaccine

Kellye Lynn


The cervical cancer vaccine advanced women’s medicine and researchers at Johns Hopkins are working toward the same goal with breast cancer.

Clinical trials are underway right now for a vaccine that doctors hope will one day wipe out the killer disease. They tell Healthwatch reporter Kellye Lynn, that the first phase of the trials look promising.

“We have designed a vaccine from cancer cells themselves,” explains Hopkins oncologist Leisha Emens. “While we can cure some patients, all too often breast cancer relapses, and once it comes back, it is incurable. So, what we would like to do is find a different way to treat cancer.”

Susan Marangi is one of nearly 50 women taking part in Baltimore based clinical trials.

She was first diagnosed with stage one breast cancer 19 years ago. She’s had chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, none of which worked long term.

“It finally became extremely clear to me that I was going to die,” she tells WJZ’s Lynn. “Traditionally everybody would say if you can make it five years, you’re home free.”

Marangi was cancer free for 11 years. Now, she’s terminal, with stage four breast cancer and she’s giving her body up for research.

“Knowing that the current treatment was only going to be 20 or 30 percent effective, it’s not in my makeup to wait for something to happen.”

As part of the clinical trials, Marangi is given the vaccine to help the body defeat the cancer. Dr. Emens says it works much like the recently approved cervical cancer vaccine.

“The problem with cancer is because it comes from within you, our immune system says, ‘So what. I have seen this before.’ Our idea is to re-educate the immune system to recognize tumor cells more like an infection, like a cold virus, and to seek out and to destroy cancer.”

The vaccine is injected under the skin and is given with low doses of chemotherapy. Side effects are minimal but the research is in the early stages and years away from hitting the market. Still, Dr. Emens says the potential is staggering.

“I believe eventually we can, prevent the disease from happening in the first place.”
Susan Marangi believes if the vaccine doesn’t help her, it will save somebody.

“When they first came out with the polio vaccine, somebody had to be the first person it worked on,” she tells WJZ. “I don’t know if I will be that person, but I am sure somebody will be that first person that this particular vaccine works on.”

(© MMVII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)


  1. SeaSpray on November 30, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Hi Jenster- I am sorry about your friend. It’s so sad when we lose people we care about and awful that it has to be from this disease. The research sounds encouraging.My girlfriend’s lump wasn’t cancer-PRAISE GOD! Thank you for your support…it meant a lot to me.Our aunt is still struggling with the breast CA. I am an optimist and believe in miracles but when I heard how advanced her cancer was in August of 06, I honestly didn’t think she would be with us for Christmas and even though it is tough she is still here. The chemo has now elevated her blood sugar and she has to get a periodic scan of her heart. She is so thin and pail. She is the gentlest and one of most stoic people I have ever known-never complains. She still has a smile that lights up a room.Take care and thank you…again. 🙂

  2. Becky on November 30, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    My closest friend Chrissy is heading for the hospital today to get a lumpectomy, and will know around Christmas if it is or is not cancerous. I’ve bookmarked the links in your post to pass along to her.Keep plugging away on that book, Jenster…what you have to say about this disease needs to be heard. Your journey from diagnosis to survivor, your spouse/family/friend support, your warmth, your caring, your understanding, your sense of humor…all of it will be a huge help and encouragement for people coming along behind.

  3. Jenster on November 30, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Seaspray – I’ll second that “Praise God” for your friend!! I am sorry about your aunt and will keep her in my prayers.Becky – I’ll be praying for Chrissy. That seems like such a long time to wait and the waiting is one of the hardest parts. I know I don’t have to say this, but please, please, PLEASE keep me posted. And you can give her my email, too, if she has any questions or just wants to talk or whatever. I have more resources I can point her to if it comes to that, which I’m praying it won’t.And why is it you always make me tear up when you start talking about my book?? lol I greatly appreciate your encouragement. You have no idea how much!

  4. Cheryl Wray on November 30, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    So sorry to hear about your friend. Will be keeping her family in my prayers.Fascinating story!

  5. Jaime on November 30, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    hey you. I’m really sorry to hear the news about your friend. I share your feelings that many times, we “forget” that too many women still die from this. And that leads me to the whole marketing thing…but that’s another post, you should read the essay “what would susan do?” on imtooyoungforthis.org! I also think there’s so much news and info about hormone receptor POSITIVE cancer that HR-, and triple-negative brca’s are often forgotten about. Or never mentioned at all. Did I give you my school email? The blackberry one is no more…..let me know! thanks, chica.

  6. lahdeedah on November 30, 2007 at 8:16 pm

    Wow. This is so powerful, Jen. I am deeply sorry about your friend, but grateful that you bring up the point in her honor that not everyone makes it through this. My heart also goes out to your friend Gina and to Susan, who she mentions on her website. I thank both of them for being powerful advocates for women who have experienced or continue to deal with breast cancer. Thanks, Jen. I feel humbled.Jill

  7. Kris on December 1, 2007 at 4:33 am

    I am very sorry for the loss of your friend and my prayers go out to you and her family. It is doubly sad that it happened on Thanksgiving. My prayers also continue to find a cure and/or vaccine.

  8. Lynilu on December 1, 2007 at 10:46 am

    It is never easy, is it? I often wonder “why?’ even though I know the answer is not for us to understand.I’m sorry, Jen.

  9. Sherry on December 1, 2007 at 3:35 pm

    The fight is so strong, we put so much of ourselves into and we hope and we pray that everyone conquers this. We are humbled when we hear of someone who does not. Prayers to the family and the angel who has left us.As for a vaccine…we live to see an end to cancer…

  10. Gretchen on December 1, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    Jen, I’m so sorry to hear about Jacquie. Thank you for this post, and for your info re: a possible vaccine. God bless Susan Marangi and all like her who are taking part in trials and may God bless all breast cancer fighters, survivors, and families of those in the battle.Becky is right. Get crankin’ on that book, Missy!!!

  11. Monnik on December 2, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear about your friend.The article is promising news, though. We’re getting there!

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