Sandy is 58, has been married for 32 years and is a mother of three. Her family enjoys a very active lifestyle including running, biking, swimming, traveling and exploring the outdoors. She is also passionate about food and volunteering. Over the years, she has participated in a number of clinical trials.
Share with us your most recent clinical trial experience.
About six-and-a-half years ago I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer. Of course, you hear that word and it throws you for a loop. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. My doctor was conducting a clinical trial on strength and muscle retention that I became a part of. I thought, I was already athletic and I wanted to stay in shape for my kids so I can still do stuff with my family. I think that was my biggest fear with the cancer, making sure I was going to be able to interact with them the way I wanted to; the way I was before I found out I had cancer.
The trial was good for my personal journey because it helped me see where I was. It gave me the momentum to keep going because someone else was measuring my status. It wasn’t just for me and the kids. I knew that this research was going to help someone else. I wasn’t sure who or how they would benefit from it, I just knew where I was in the trial.
This trial didn’t deal with drugs at all. It is kind of neat that there are clinical trials out there that don’t all revolve around medicine. Being in the trial helped me see where my strength levels were and that I definitely needed to keep going to the gym. I knew someone was going to hold me accountable for it every couple of months when I would go back for my checkup. I think this is sort of an underlying (motivation), that going forward someone else would be benefiting, whether it was a cancer patient or elderly person.
Since the trial did not involve drugs, what did your participation entail?
Initially they had me walking to check for balance with leg muscles. There were different instruments where they would measure the mobility of my arms or length bands to see the reach I had in my arms. They would have me lift different kinds of weights in different positions, done with each arm to see if one was stronger than the other. Some had me pushing different weights with my legs. It was almost like you were working out at a gym but they were recording everything; my range of mobility and the weights I was using.
How are you doing now?
As of now, I am diagnosed cancer free. I still have to go back for an annual 3-D mammogram. Then I go back every six months to the oncologist for a checkup. In my normal life, I try to focus on maintaining my strength and health with diet as well as with exercise. Currently, I am deciding about doing another triathlon this summer. For the most part I feel healthy and blessed that I can do what I can do at this point.
If anything, what would have made your experience better in a clinical trial?
I did ask them with my last visit, if there was a way the patients could find out how the trial went; how we actually did help. I did want them to send us information of how successful the trial was and if we did make a difference. Even finding out this isn’t going to work is a result. To make a positive difference is something we are always looking for. I think being informed and knowing the outcome would be kind of neat for us to know. Otherwise, I think everything was fine. Everyone who came in to do the trial at the different points of my medical checkups was very polite, respectful and courteous.
When you hear about the mission of Greater Gift, what comes to mind?
I think the work is amazing. It is something that needs to be out there in front of the public. I do feel a lot of people have no idea about clinical trials. So, I appreciate Greater Gift having more of a visual presence and more of a voice in the community. It needs to really be brought out there to the public all that Greater Gift can do not only for us as a community and the next generation after us with clinical trials, but also with the help that is going on with children in third world countries. They are combining volunteer work from one end and appreciating those who have given beforehand for the next generation for the future.
What is your hope for clinical trials for the future?
My hope would be that we wouldn’t need any more clinical trials because we have found cures for everything. But knowing that is probably not in my lifetime I guess my hope would be that more people would be aware of clinical trials and want to participate in them. Also understanding the importance of clinical trials. I think it is something that if people are aware of them before they come down with an illness it’s much easier to be included in the clinical trial when the illness occurs. I think it would be extremely important for people to know about it before they become sick.
Describe clinical trials in three words.
Journey. Hope. Support.