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E12: Stage IV
Mary Parker

E12: Stage IV

One woman describes the messy reality of living with stage IV cancer

I met Carmen in kindergarten. It was the only kindergarten in town, in the cramped and dusty basement of a church. Every kid in our small New Hampshire town knew each other from that basement on, and Carmen and I were friends all through elementary school.

Though we lost touch when we went to different high schools, the power of Facebook kept us updated on each other's lives. I knew she got cancer in high school and beat it, moved to Seattle, and later moved back to the Boston area. We met up once or twice for coffee.

Then she got cancer again. And again.

According to government statistics, almost 40% of Americans will get cancer at some point in their lives. Between 1991 and 2015 the cancer mortality rate in the US fell 26%, although the rates for certain types of cancer have increased.

Carmen’s treatment now is focused on palliative care, or symptom relief. Her excellent doctors are doing everything they can to keep the cancer in her bones for as long as possible. In the meantime, they are focusing on pain relief and quality of life, and Carmen is using their hard work to make each day count. She has traveled to Japan, and will soon set out on a tropical cruise with her family.

In this podcast, Carmen is blunt and honest about the messy details of her cancer treatment. Many of us do not realize the toll that cancer treatment can take on a patient until we or someone close to us goes through it, but we could all stand to learn more about the realities faced by millions of people around the world. 

Check out this companion blog post on genetic testing to learn about how a simple conversation can help patients plan for future health issues.  

The above photo is of Carmen and her daughter. It was provided by Andrea Simmons Photography.

Sounds of Science is a monthly podcast by Eureka, with new episodes on the first Tuesday of the month. You can subscribe and download our episodes wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. For even more scientific content follow Charles River on Facebook and LinkedIn and @criverlabs on Instagram and Twitter. You can also send us your questions, our email address is [email protected].