RIP Jenny Pagliaro. Singer of Roses and Cigarettes. She was only 35. Her song “Fast As I Can” is about living with metastatic breast cancer. She was a sister I didn’t know personally. But I take her death very personally. I’m 53. The same beast that tried to kill me 10 years ago, killed her today. At 35. I’m not OK with that. With any of it.
Everybody knows that 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lifetime. I am one of the 1 in 8. But not everybody knows that 3 out of 10 of those 1 women in 8 (that’s 30% of all initial breast cancer diagnosis regardless of stage) will have a breast cancer recurrence, become metastatic, become one of the 113 women who die every day in our country. If you are inside the breast cancer world, it feels like everybody outside the breast cancer world thinks that since we all think pink in October, that we got breast cancer “handled”. I doubt Olivia Pope would consider the situation handled.
I keep posting about my friends keeping on dying cuz they keep on dying and I am a witness to their lives and they will not go softly into the night if I stand up here on this platform and say there name out loud and proud, do my part to pay forward my own good fortune by helping keep their memory alive.
Today Jenny Pagliaro is one of the 113 women (and #mengetbreastcancertoo) die from breast cancer every day in our country. There are 112 more women, who are not famous rock stars who wrote uber fab breast cancer anthems, that will die from metastatic breast cancer. Just like Jenny Pagliaro. But without the fanfare. It will not be on the evening news. The world will not notice. Except we in the breast cancer community will notice. We feel each one. We all know many of them. Some of deeper in the breast cancer movement have people they know and love die everyday, sometimes more than one friend a day. We all know it could be us. We don’t have breast cancer handled. It is NOT a manageable disease.
It’s not a fluke that Jenny Pagliaro or any of my friends who die on a given day, die on any given day. It’s what cancer does. It has one job, and it does it well. Approximately 800 women (and men) get breast cancer in the US every day, and 113 die every day. We haven’t done much to change those ugly stats. Pink has not handled cancer.
Metastatic breast cancer research is where our focus needs to be. UCLA Metastatic breast cancer researcher Dennis Slamon’s discovery of the targeted immunotherapy aka Herceptin is the only reason I’m sitting here typing these word. It used to be 100% fatal kind to get. His work was focused on metastatic breast cancer patients without any options remaining who had all been told to go home and get their homes in order. He took these “hopeless” cases, gave them hope and Herceptin, and ended up turning the tide for Her2 breast cancer patients like me. Before we didn’t have a bullet against the beast. Now we have a bullet. So far, so good, mine’s been a silver bullet.
But my point is, we need to do this with all the cancers, not just breast cancers. This is where we need to be putting our monies, into metastatic cancer research. The #truthbomb is, if we cure metastatic cancers, then it becomes a manageable disease cuz nobody is dying from it. Then we are “handling” it. I recommend METAvivor Research and Support Inc. 100% of everything they raise goes to metastatic breast cancer research. The kind that kills. The kind we should be focusing on. They are focusing on it. They got one job and I believe they are gonna do it.
Meanwhile, Pagliaro’s song “Fast As I Can” resonates deep with me today. Here’s a really good Billboard article about her. Here are a couple quotes I pulled outta it that hit me where I live as fast as I can.
“The upbeat, twangy songs message about living life to the fullest shines through, even as it chronicles Pagliaro’s frequent hospital visits for cancer treatment.”
“This song was written about my battle with stage IV breast cancer,” Pagliaro told Billboard at the time. “It’s about not letting the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced stop you from living your dreams.”