Photos and text used with permission
of Noreen Fraser
When first diagnosed in 2001, I was in love with my life as a mother of two beautiful children (then 8 and 10 years old) and a wonderful husband. The last thing I ever expected was breast cancer. A nightmare. My tumor was small (1.3 cm) and doctors told me that if I had a lumpectomy, radiation, and took my daily dose of the estrogen blocker tamoxifen, there was a 96% chance that my cancer would not return.
Two years later, the breast cancer had spread to my bones and later, to my liver. My physicians told me I had 3-5 years. My response to that news was "NO WAY and not going to happen!" I was sad ... but then I got mad, which propelled me into action. I have a daughter and five sisters, and I was determined this would not happen to them. Since 2003, I've lived with Stage IV breast cancer, a life lived on constant treatment, with doctors' visits, procedures, permanent side effects, and varying amounts of hair on my head. But that didn't stop me.
I wanted to play my role in increasing awareness of women's cancers and to call upon the very unique resources of the entertainment industry to raise money for research. I formed the Noreen Fraser Foundation (NFF) in 2006. We work to fund high-quality research and empower women to find their way to the highest quality care and to advocate for themselves.
I consider "chemo brain" a reality, but my creative juices were still flowing. I put my former career as a TV producer back to work. I co-founded and co-produced a history-making telecast, "Stand Up 2 Cancer" which raised over $100 million for cutting-edge team science cancer research. It marked the first time all three major television networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS, aired a 1-hour, commercial-free, prime-time special simultaneously - absolutely unprecedented. When entertainment media seeks to support a cause, its influence knows no bounds.
It's my hope that in the near future no other woman will have to walk in the steps of my breast cancer journey. I've been fortunate to have access to cutting-edge treatments that have kept my breast cancer stable, treatments that were unavailable when I was first diagnosed. The Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program has played a significant role in bringing much needed funding and resources to breast cancer scientists and to the women who are counting on them to be accurately diagnosed and effectively treated. It was an honor to serve as a consumer reviewer alongside breast cancer research scientists in determining which projects have the greatest scientific merit and will make the biggest difference in women's lives.
My thanks to breast cancer scientists! I have been blessed to see my children grow up, and graduate from high school (which was a deal I made with God). My daughter just graduated from college this May and I was there!!!! And I intend to attend my son's college graduation. For whatever reason, I am still here. I am grateful and I know how to count my blessings.
The mission of the NFF is to raise funds for breakthrough research that advances precision medicine for the prevention and treatment of women's cancers. Our hope is that cancer will become a manageable disease that women will live with and not die from, until it ceases to exist.
Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016