Cynvenio Announces ClearID® Commercial Distribution Agreements for Israel, Greece, Argentina and South Korea

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Four New Commercial Agreements Bring Expanded International Access to Cynvenio’s line of ClearID LiquidBiopsy® tests.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA – June 14, 2017 – Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc. a leader in LiquidBiopsy® cancer diagnostics and personalized medicine technology, today announced four new distribution agreements for Cynvenio’s ClearID line of blood tests that support targeted treatment selection and patient monitoring over the cancer care cycle. The commercial agreements will make ClearID available immediately in Israel, Greece, Argentina, and South Korea.

Pronto Diagnostics is a provider of molecular diagnostic products and services in Israel, representing a variety of technologies in the field of genetic and molecular diagnostics.

Karyo is a private diagnostics laboratory in Greece providing genetic testing services supported by a qualified staff of molecular biologists, certified cytogeneticists, and clinical geneticists.

ProgeniTest is a leading genetic analysis service lab in Argentina offering more than 3,500 different tests and support services to help clients select tests and interpret results.

Bio-Medical Science Co. is an established supplier of life sciences research and diagnostics products in South Korea with offices in Seoul and Daejeon and a distribution center in Gimpo.

Cynvenio’s ClearID is designed for patients undergoing treatment for cancer and those who require follow-up testing at regular intervals after completion of therapy. Currently, there are ClearID sequencing panels optimized for breast, colon and lung cancer and a ClearID test for PD-L1 expression. These tests use molecular analysis to rapidly and precisely generate real-time information on cancer cell activity. Using a normal blood draw, ClearID detects the presence of scarce populations of cancer cells in the bloodstream and identifies gene alterations known to signal resistance to therapy.

Based on Cynvenio’s patented LiquidBiopsy® approach to tumor monitoring, ClearID tests analyze a combination of DNA from circulating tumor cells (CTC), cell-free DNA (cfDNA), and germline DNA (gDNA). This multi-sourced DNA analysis produces direct insights into the progression of the primary tumor and the metastatic disease process, while increasing specificity by using germline DNA as a built-in control to eliminate biological and instrument noise.

“We are pleased to announce these partnerships as we continue to expand our global presence,” said Humberto Huerta, Cynvenio Chief Commercialization Officer. “All of these distributors are leaders in genomic testing and we look forward to working together to make ClearID available to more physicians and patients around the world.”

“All of our testing partners can leverage Cynvenio’s CLIA/CAP lab in California to quickly gain traction in their home markets with minimal investment, which is a huge benefit to the doctors and patients they serve,” said André de Fusco, Cynvenio’s CEO. “Later, if/when they desire, they have the option to expand locally by installing our automated LiquidBiopsy platforms in their own labs and bring the whole testing process under their control - it’s the best of both worlds.”

About Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.

Cynvenio’s LiquidBiopsy testing technology is leading the way to more affordable and clinically actionable precision medicine strategies for cancer patients.  Among the company’s breakthroughs is its line of ClearID® tests for greatly improved cancer detection and monitoring via a patient-friendly blood draw, and a suite of proprietary, distributable LiquidBiopsy® platforms and consumables for deployment in hospitals and third party diagnostic labs. Cynvenio is based in Westlake Village, California. For more information, please visit www.cynvenio.comwww.clearidmonitoring.com, and www.liquidbiopsy.com.

LiquidBiopsy® and ClearID® are registered trademarks of Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.

Cynvenio’s LiquidBiopsy® Platform-Derived Research Data to be Presented at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting, June 2-June 6, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois

The company’s LiquidBiopsy system developed for rare cell and cell-free isolation with downstream molecular characterization will be on display at booth #23123. In addition, research supporting serial monitoring of breast cancer via liquid biopsy testing will be published during the conference.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, CA – June 1, 2017 – Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc. a leader in personalized medicine technology for cancer diagnostics, today announced that its LiquidBiopsy rare cell and cell-free isolation platform will be featured at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting at booth #23123. The event takes place June 2 - June 6, 2017, at McCormick Place in Chicago, IL.  Also at the conference, study data collected via the LiquidBiopsy platform and supporting the utility of longitudinal monitoring of breast cancer patients will be published.
  
The LiquidBiopsy platform delivers a blood-to-sequence workflow that provides three DNA templates; a purified CTC pellet, a cfDNA sample, alongside a germline control. The CTC pellets sequence on less than 10ng of DNA input material, without the need for whole genome amplification, as opposed to other competing approaches which cannot match these specifications. When used with Cynvenio’s custom Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) gene panels and cloud-based bioinformatics, the LiquidBiopsy workflow can reduce processing times by 60%-80%. This means that labs can operate at higher scale, with better quality control, and more profitably by eliminating typical sequencing bottlenecks. At ASCO, the platform will be on display at the Thermo Fisher Scientific booth.
  
The results of two independent research studies will be presented at the conference in support of the utility of Cynvenio’s liquid biopsy approach for the serial monitoring of breast cancer patients. Both sets of research data were collected using Cynvenio’s LiquidBiopsy platform.
  
Cynvenio Poster Presentation:
  
Preliminary data collected from the first year of Cynvenio’s ongoing 211-patient TNBC research study (clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT02639832) will be presented by Paul Y. Song, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Cynvenio. The research supports the utility of longitudinal monitoring of triple negative breast cancer patients using Cynvenio’s ClearID liquid biopsy tests. The poster titled,  “Use of serial multi-template liquid biopsies in triple negative breast cancer monitoring,” will be presented during the Breast Cancer—Metastatic session on Sunday, June 4, 8:00 AM to 11:30 AM in Hall A (Abstract #1091, Poster Board #83).
  
Research by Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York, NY:
  
Research by Cynvenio collaborator, Mount Sinai Medical Center, will be published in conjunction with the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting with findings from a study of 20 patients diagnosed with stage I-IV breast cancer who received serial CTC/cfDNA liquid biopsy collections between October 2015 and November 2016. The study found that mutations were identified in 25% of patients, more frequently in cfDNA and not in every collected sample, supporting serial collection studies to monitor response. Presence of the same pathogenic mutations in the patient’s primary tumor suggests a role for surveillance in early stage, as well as advanced disease (Abstract #e23070).
 
About Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.
  
Cynvenio’s liquid biopsy testing technology is leading the way to more affordable and clinically actionable precision medicine strategies for cancer patients.  Among the company’s breakthroughs is its line of ClearID® tests for greatly improved cancer detection and monitoring via a patient-friendly blood draw, and a suite of proprietary, distributable LiquidBiopsy® platforms and consumables for deployment in hospitals and third party diagnostic labs. Cynvenio is based in Westlake Village, California. For more information, please visit www.cynvenio.comwww.clearidmonitoring.com, and www.liquidbiopsy.com
   
LiquidBiopsy® and ClearID® are registered trademarks of Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.

Cynvenio Research Highlights Need for Longitudinal Monitoring of Triple Negative Breast Cancer Patients

Preliminary results from Company’s 211 patient TNBC clinical research study will be presented at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting, June 2-June 6, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

WESTLAKE VILLAGE – May 30, 2017Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc., a leader in personalized medicine technology for cancer diagnostics, announced the company will present preliminary data to support the utility of longitudinal monitoring of triple negative breast cancer patients using Cynvenio’s ClearID liquid biopsy tests. These data were collected during the first year of Cynvenio’s clinical research study, “A Pilot Surveillance Study to Monitor Natural Killer Cells and Circulating Tumor Cells in Women with Previously Treated Non-metastatic Triple Negative Breast Cancer and Women with Previously Treated Non-metastatic Breast Cancer With a confirmed BRCA Mutation” (clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT02639832).

This ongoing study, which launched in December 2015, examines the utility of serial liquid biopsies using a multi-template approach that identifies and analyzes cell-free DNA (cfDNA), circulating tumor cells (CTCs), and germline DNA (gDNA). Enrolled in the study are 211 women with a confirmed diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC), who were within three years of completion of therapy when they entered the study and had no evidence of residual/recurrent cancer.  On average, each participant has had four serial samples collected to date which have been analyzed using Cynvenio’s ClearID® Breast Cancer custom 27-oncogene panel.

The data collected shows the majority of participants have had evidence of genomic mutations in at least one sample, but did not show these changes in consecutive blood draws and have not experienced documented recurrence. In contrast, a small percentage of the group did show changes in both cfDNA and CTC’s on consecutive blood draws and have developed documented evidence of recurrence.

Despite a relatively favorable response rate to chemotherapy, TNBC-classified patients are more likely to develop distant recurrence and die from breast cancer within five years of diagnosis compared with other patients, and one-third of all triple-negative patients will eventually develop metastatic disease.

"Currently the medical community has limited methods to identify recurrence in cancer patients consisting mainly of CT, MRI or PET scans," said Peter Beitsch, MD FACS, Founder of TME Research Network. "These tests are expensive, require a significant time commitment for the patient, and are not without side effects. We need a better way to monitor breast cancer patients which is less invasive, convenient, and detects cancer at the earliest time point possible with the smallest volume of recurrent cancer, which is easier to treat. The ClearID test appears to be that method. I look forward to longer follow up of this cohort with serial monitoring."

“We are encouraged by the findings to date,” commented Paul Y. Song, MD, Chief Medical Officer of Cynvenio. “The preliminary data shows the importance of a multi-template approach to provide greater visibility on a patient’s tumor landscape and the ultimate value of longitudinal monitoring to track persistent mutations. Our aim is to help find cancerous cells well before they embed themselves in organs or bone, and then analyze them to identify specific targeted therapies in hopes of improving outcomes.”

The data will be presented in a poster “Use of serial multi-template liquid biopsies in triple negative breast cancer monitoring” by Dr. Paul Y. Song et. al. at the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, June 2-June 6, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.

About Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.

Cynvenio’s liquid biopsy testing technology is leading the way to more affordable and clinically actionable precision medicine strategies for cancer patients.  Among the company’s breakthroughs is its line of ClearID® tests for greatly improved cancer detection and monitoring via a patient-friendly blood draw, and a suite of proprietary, distributable LiquidBiopsy® platforms and consumables for deployment in hospitals and third party diagnostic labs. Cynvenio is based in Westlake Village, California. For more information, please visit www.cynvenio.comwww.clearidmonitoring.com, and www.liquidbiopsy.com.

LiquidBiopsy® and ClearID® are registered trademarks of Cynvenio Biosystems, Inc.

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THE WELL AGAIN PATH, PART 2: JUMBO TIDE

It takes a lot of nerve to invest in your future after cancer. Because this illness attacks your belief in yourself. When we’re diagnosed, every one of us asks the same question: How could I have been carrying this monster and never suspected? Am I really that stupid? Even worse, is cancer really that smart?

Either way, it doesn’t feel great for our prospects going forward.

My hilariously funny friend Emily from Mississippi, whom I met when she was in her first fight with ovarian cancer, put it in household terms: “I always bought the jumbo Tide. Now I wonder, should I just get the travel size?”

I totally understood. Emily was Facing her Situation, like a grownup. Only guess what? It turns out Emily overfaced. (I just thought up this word.) Thousands of tiny Tides later, Emily’s still scared, still hilarious, and still here.

I’m scared too. All the time, whenever I am not distracted with worrying about the mortgage and whether my poodle has chewed up my headphones again. Millions of us are in the same boat, scared all the time. That’s the price of belonging to the secret worldwide society of “How the hell are you still here?”

It is so confusing to be alive! Our poor human brains keep scrambling to understand. Who are we now? Are we miracles or flukes? Should we walk proud, knowing we beat the odds, or should we crouch down and make ourselves small, in case the monster is still out there?

This leads me right back to the question of the future. Do I have one?

On one hand, there are so many things I want to do. Until cancer, I never even knew how many! On the other hand, it’s stupid to even think I have a future. I better clean out the garage so my kids don’t have to!

The jumbo Tide? Or the travel size?

Being a storyteller, I was really stuck on this question of the future. People like me can find no rest until we at least imagine a “happily ever after.”

One morning I sat myself down in a coffee shop and vowed that I would not get up until I had a list of true statements about life beyond cancer. Not just true for one kind of cancer or one kind of survivor. True, and trustworthy, for all of us.

Afternoon came. Then night. I tried out and rejected every platitude, truism, creed, and bumper sticker I had ever come across.

Every statement of belief contradicted something else. Every right made someone else wrong. I knew this wasn’t good enough. When it comes to cancer, the last thing we need is to tear each other down with “I’m correct and you’re an idiot.”

Finally, just as they put the CLOSED sign in the window, I sat back. I’d written a list of nine simple statements. I’d done my best to refute each one; I couldn’t. Five years later, for me, anyway, they still hold up.

These nine statements became my 9 Ways to Well Again. They are truths I can rely on. You can think of them as waypoints, as articles of faith, or, of course, as nothing at all. Doesn’t matter. They’re really for me.

I know I’m on the Well Again Path, and so I’m not lost anymore. I’m going forward, not back. I’m on a mapped and charted route, even if I made it up myself. And when I know where I’m going, I’m not so scared.

In my last post, I told you how I came to my first truth on the Well Again Path: “I EMBRACE THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE BEYOND CANCER"

Here’s truth two: “I BELIEVE MY FUTURE WILL BE BETTER THAN MY PAST.”

For me, these statements are a way to get my defiance going. They’re about telling cancer to kiss off. You may attack my body, pal, but you’re not getting inside my soul.

I see life as an ADVENTURE because that’s what it is—especially the rough parts. And I don’t need cancer’s permission to imagine a great FUTURE for myself. I defiantly, pigheadedly claim the right to dream all my dreams and jump into every one, all the time, up to and including the moment when I take leave of this life.

I mean, when you get to it, considering that I’ve been wrestling cancer this time around, there’s every chance that my cosmic, unknowable future will be better than my past.

Next time I’ll tell you about truth 3 on the Well Again Path.

Meanwhile: Hey cancer. Look for me in the detergent aisle. I’m filling my cart with jumbo Tide. I plan to make a lot of messes before I’m through!

—Anne Stockwell

PLEASE JOIN ME ON MAY 15 for the first 9 WAYS TO WELL AGAIN ONLINE WORKSHOP! As a ClearID reader, you’re invited free of charge. Just email us at info@wellagain.org with the subject line, CLEARID!

And please know that the ClearID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about ClearID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com.

THE WELL AGAIN PATH, STEP 1: EMBRACE THE ADVENTURE

All great myths have this in common. Adventure finds the hero, not the other way around. A shepherd boy is tending his flock; along comes a giant. Just like that, we’re hooked. We have to hear what happens next. This does not mean we’d like to meet a giant ourselves.

Even in fairy tales, heroes don’t just volunteer. Adventure has to knock three times, because the first two times, everybody hides. It takes an all-out assault, pounding at the door, before adventure gets the hero moving. The tests that follow will push this ordinary person beyond the breaking point. Only then does he or she discover the greatness that was inside all along. That’s the Hero’s Journey.

Just after my first surgery—before I was well enough to drive, if we’re being honest—I doubled up my bandages and headed off on a secret mission to the bookstore. I couldn’t explain it to myself, but I had an absolute craving to re-read The Lord of the Rings.

It took me a long time to understand why this story and not some other. Now I know. These heroes are the ultimate underdogs, and they know it. They’re so outmatched, they can never hope to win. They have to find the courage to keep going anyway.

That’s what I wanted to hear about—how I could get myself to stand up and do battle with an adversary as dreadful as cancer? How could I keep myself from running away?

I am not brave. I had to grow my heart and soul just so I could get in the ring and give cancer a fight. After treatment, I was scared to go back for checkups. For years, I woke up each morning afraid that cancer had come back in the night. I wanted just one thing—to be 100 percent sure that cancer would never bother me again. Eventually I realized I’d better want something else, something possible.

I couldn’t wish to “beat” cancer. I couldn’t insist on a specific “victory.” I couldn’t even be sure why I got cancer in the first place. All that was beyond my control.

All I could do was choose how I feel about the struggle. In that moment, an idea came to me, so strongly that it scrolled across my mind like a sentence in a storybook:

I EMBRACE THE ADVENTURE OF LIFE BEYOND CANCER.

Yes, I thought. That.

Not life after cancer. Life beyond. Because how can I know? Not accept. Embrace. Because what choice do I have? Not illness. Adventure. Because cancer is the giant that will call forth the giantkiller in me.

Cancer is tougher than the adventure stories we grew up on, because cancer never runs out of ways to scare us. We have to live this adventure in real time, complete with cliffhangers, plot twists, misleading clues, and unbearable suspense. We can’t count on an old-time happy ending. We have to create our own.

Your cancer journey will demand lots of possibly perilous choices between therapies and hospitals and drugs. Each one feels like a crossroads where you have to answer a riddle posed by a troll. If you’re like me, you’ll be furious there’s no third choice, where you didn’t have cancer in the first place.

You can choose to look harder. You can remember your fourth choice—your great choice. You can embrace this adventure. Claim it as your path.

In place of a happy ending, you get something richer. You get the ability to handle each moment while you’re in it. You learn that when you’re doing something you love, you can forget to be afraid for hours at a time. Sure, you’ll be scared later. So what? In this moment, you’re Well Again.

Let the journey begin.

—Anne Stockwell

THE WELL AGAIN PATH offers simple truths that every cancer voyager can rely on. To learn more, visit www.wellagain.org.

And please know that the ClearID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about ClearID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com.

SNOW DAY

Here’s one of the great things about living on beyond cancer. You may get to see New York City one more time. That’s where I am right now—enjoying my first real snow day since I left for California. Outside, a Nor’easter hurls snow and tosses the branches around in a landscape of white. Inside, I’m warm and cozy, perched in a dormer-ceilinged room looking out on the Verrazano Bridge.

Back when I lived in New York, I had no idea cancer would cross my path. My challenges were all about how to make a student film at NYU, with no money and no earthly idea what I was doing.

We did not get a snow day on my first film project. What we got was a day in the snow, at the mercy of the constant, frigid wind off the East River.

It was mid-January when our three-person crew pulled up beside a deserted patch of ground in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was the camera operator for the day. Unfortunately for me, our director saw his movie from a worm’s eye view. I spent eight hours on my stomach in the mud, so cold the camera kept freezing up. But that wasn’t the hard thing. The hard thing was getting up at dawn the next day to go out and do it again.

Pulling my steaming coat off the radiator, I felt like I was in one of those cartoons where a devil sits on one shoulder and an angel sits on the other. In my mind, I called in sick a dozen times—and each time willed myself not to chicken out. Until I was out on the sidewalk, I didn’t know which side of me would win.

“Snow day” took on a different meaning after cancer came into my life. You know what I mean. You show up for chemo; you’re more or less prepared to run this gauntlet again. But as they draw your blood beforehand, you have a secret wish. Just for today, your white blood cells or whatever will be too low. Just for today, they’ll say you’re too compromised for chemo. Just for today, they’ll send you home.

This is obviously not good for your cancer treatment. But the kid in you—the child who wants to scream at the needles and the IV drips and the fake good cheer of it all—she wants a snow day.

The actual experience of chemo was never unbearable for me. But as I got further into my treatments, it got harder to show up. I’d start that inner argument: I can’t/ You’d better/ I won’t/ You will.

Both voices would yammer in my head as I prepped the day before. At the supermarket, I’d fill my cart with bottles of electrolyte-loaded sports drinks. A doctor in the ER had told me they would help me tolerate chemo better. I learned to gag at the sight of those bottles. To this day, I steer clear of the sports-drink aisle.

How did I get my head back in the chemo game? Sometimes I’d remember my adventures in film school—the ridiculous places we put ourselves in, and the fact that we survived it all. Those memories became Well Again moments. Eventually I’d have to smile, and then I knew I’d be okay.

By the way, my second day as camerawoman under the Brooklyn Bridge was just as awful as I thought. We wrapped ourselves from head to toe in garbage bags; the wind froze us anyway. Less colorful commuters gave us a wide berth on the subway home. Through our fatigue it took us a while to realize we looked crazy. We accepted the stares as proof that we had left our limitations behind. We had showed up once and we would do it again. We were survivors.

—Anne Stockwell

I’d love to hear your stories about living on beyond cancer. Please email me here, or at anne@wellagain.org.

 

STEP AWAAAY FROM THE INTERWEBS

When cancer strikes, you’re going to want information. You’re going to want to get your head around this. You’re going to want to go where you always go for information—the Internet. Please resist the urge. Learn from my mistakes.

Why would I care what you google?  Because here’s what happens.  You go home in a daze from your meeting with the doctor who’s just told you The News. You don’t know what to do with yourself.  You boot up your computer and start looking for [your cancer here].  Naturally, you begin with survival statistics.  Oh wow. Not great. Definitely more serious than you thought.  You start shaking.  You don’t notice this article is from 1985.

Then you decide to search images.  A parade of grotesque formations pops up, crazy ugly piles of globules that seem as tall as buildings, nestled in beds of innocent pink tissue. These are tumors—under a microscope. People call them malignant for a reason.  God, does your tumor look like this? Now you’re in a panic.

You start planning your funeral.  Will anybody miss you?  Probably not.  What did you do to make the world better while you were here?  Nothing.

You feel yourself curling up into a ball.  Remember when your friend Elaine got cancer?  They gave her a year but she went in three months.

You google Elaine.  It wasn’t three months. It was two.

You need some good news! An inspirational story! So you google on and find your doctor’s name mentioned in a blog post. That should help.

Not so much.  The poster hates him.  She says your doctor skimped on her pain meds, dodged her questions, and generally acted an ass.  The poster is anonymous.  Anonymous, and probably addicted to painkillers, you think.

But a little doubt creeps in. Is this doctor really for you?  Will he care about your case?

You reach for the phone.  But your doctor’s gone home for the night.  Anyway, you’d be embarrassed to call. You don’t want to alienate him. He’s about to do surgery on you.  What if he’s so irritated he misses something? Doctors do, you know. You google “malpractice.”

Next thing you know, it’s four a.m. and you’re staring at the ceiling.  You’re not counting sheep, you’re deciding who should get your comic book collection. Your affairs are settled.  Your neighbor will feed your cat. There’s just one thing you forgot:

None of this is real.  You made it all up.  You and your enabler, the Internet.

When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I went home and fired up the computer.  The first article I saw put my odds of survival at 20%.  This was not even remotely true in my case.  But I didn’t know that.  For days, until I had the sense to talk to an actual person with actual knowledge of my situation, I was preparing my farewell address.

And here’s the worst thing: As long as I thought I was dying, that was my reality.  At the cellular level, your body doesn’t know whether you’re experiencing something in real life or in your imagination. That’s why psychologists tell us to avoid stress.  Our poor bodies think we’re actually under fire when really it’s just our boss on a tirade.

I’m not saying you should pull your covers over your head and hide.  At this point you can find a number of calm, credible sources for cancer information online. (The American Cancer Society is a great place to start, and if you want a glimpse into the future, you can hang out right here on Clear ID Monitoring.)  Concentrate on how to recover from your cancer, not on who’s to blame.  Beware of answers that sound too easy.  Be kind to your cells: even if you’re scared, assume that you’ll feel better.  Believe you’ll find your Well Again.

Odds are, we will get through cancer and beyond, even if we make mistakes along the way.  That’s how I’ve lived long enough to be one of those people you’ll find on the Internet.

—Anne Stockwell


Want to be part of our first Well Again webinar?  It kicks off March 14 at 4pm Pacific Time. Please email me here, or at anne@wellagain.org.

And please know that the Clear ID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about Clear ID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com.

THE PEAR TREE

I’m about to board a plane and travel home to see my family. That’s a simple sentence, but before cancer, it meant something entirely different than it does now. When I was in my 20s, going home meant being observed, and I didn’t want to be observed. I dreaded having to explain myself to my more rational relatives, because damn if I knew what I was spending my life doing or where I was going. I wanted fiercely to be a writer, but knew it would be unwise to say so. As the child of academics, I was going to be asked for evidence, and I would come up short, and then there’d be a day’s silence on the topic, and then, somewhere between Sunday dinner and the airport, I’d be asked gently when I was going to come to my senses and make a realistic plan for my life.

This went on for a couple of decades.

Oddly enough, it was cancer that gave me an ambition my whole family could get behind.

On a day in 2001, I left my parents a voice message, with apologies for giving bad news long distance. I told them a) I’d been diagnosed, and b) the doctor had given me a 50/50 chance of staying alive for five years.

An hour later, my phone rang. “I feel lucky,” my dad said. No preamble, no argument, no explication.

I smiled. “Me too.”

Just like that, we found a new groove. With few exceptions, we’ve stayed in it.

We live across the country from each other, so it wasn’t about face-to-face visits. Every time I went for chemo, my dad and stepmom would send gorgeous flowers. I don’t know if they instructed the florist, but never once did their arrangements include flowers whose fragrance gagged me after chemo. (Gardenias, I’m looking at you.)

Best of all, my dad sent me books. In particular, I loved Paris to the Moon, a wonderful memoir by the New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik, about raising his young family in Paris while writing for the magazine about French politics and culture.

My favorite chapter concerned an ever-expanding bedtime story Gopnik cooked up for his young son, Luke. Wanting to introduce his child to the American sport of baseball, Gopnik invented a character, known only as the Rookie, a pitching phenomenon whose skill was such that the New York Giants signed him for the 1908 season—despite the fact that the Rookie, like Luke, was three years old.

According to Gopnik, the story began when the Rookie was out walking with his mother one day and discovered that he had an “uncanny gift for throwing stones at things. He picked one up and threw it so hard that it knocked a robin off its perch a mile away, and then, after his mama chided him, he threw another one, just as far but so softly that it snuggled into the nest beside the bird without breaking an egg.”

Even through the miasma of chemo, I settled right into the story of the Rookie. It was delightful down to the smallest detail. It was also familiar. I remembered that, like Luke Gopnik, I was the child of a writer father who knew how to tell a whale of a bedtime story.

Memories began to unfold for me. In my dad’s case, the fabulous stories emanated from the pear tree in our otherwise brown back yard. We lived in Wichita Falls, Texas, where everything was sharp, even the grass under your feet. Somehow our yard contained a big pear tree. It was startling, plunked down right in the middle of the dirt, as though it had landed there by mistake. Maybe that’s what gave my dad the idea that the pear tree was a kind of portal to another world, where endless swashbuckling adventures happened to my little brother and me.

I was about Luke’s age when my dad started telling us his pear tree stories. I wholeheartedly believed that if you got a good running start, you would pass behind the pear tree and wake up chasing Visigoths, or flapping your wings to fly.

At four, I didn’t perceive these as stories. They happened to me.

One day my dad broke the news that the tree doctor had come, and the pear tree was rotten inside, and it would have to come down. I hid with my face to the wall as the chainsaws ripped and roared outside. I let myself be coaxed out afterward, because what else could I do, but I made myself a secret promise: I might live in a world without a pear tree, but I would never accept it.

It’s not like I lost my imagination in the years that followed. But wherever my creativity led, I seemed to collide with reality, often in the form of my dad. Now a professor of literature, he seemed to have become someone whose approval was out of reach. It seemed childish even to me, but I wanted to impress the guy.

Who knew that cancer would reset the stage for us?

After I finished my chemo and went back to work, my father subscribed to my magazine. Given our differences of opinion over the years, I knew that every page of every issue would contain something he’d feel at odds with. But he did it. And he never commented except to say, “My favorite part of your Q&A interviews is where you and your subject are bantering and there’s a parenthesis that says “Anne laughs.”

And so cancer gave my dad and me the chance to learn about each other. It gave us a window, and we both took the chance to look through.

We fended off the monster, and the pear tree stands again.

—Anne Stockwell


I’d love to hear your stories about living on beyond cancer. Please email me here, or at anne@wellagain.org.

And please know that the Clear ID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about Clear ID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com.

Let the Good Times Roll

February 12, 2017 Hey my people,

The place where you grew up has a big effect on how you experience cancer. That’s why I’m glad I’m from Louisiana. You may have heard our motto, Laissez les bon temps rouler—“Let the good times roll.” We are trained from the cradle to believe that life is here for us to enjoy. We don’t really get that taciturn New England vibe. Stretching our supplies and shoveling snow? No, thank you!

Self-mortification is not our style in Louisiana. Our exports include crawfish etouffee, Zydeco music, and both Manning brothers. You can say that steel and wheat and the stock market are more important. That leads me to believe nobody has ever taken you for café au lait and beignets at Café du Monde.

The Cajuns I grew up with taught me that suffering is okay, within limits. In South Louisiana, all my friends went to church on Ash Wednesday and temporarily “gave up” some habit or other for the month of Lent. And how did we begin? We threw a party!

Mardi Gras, literally “Fat Tuesday,” is supposed to be such a blowout that Lent comes as a nice rest. Mardi Gras is when you celebrate everything that brings you joy, the high-toned and the lowdown, and give thanks for it all.

At some point in our ongoing reaction to a cancer diagnosis, most of us at least dip into the Mardi Gras frame of mind. We may throw a “Mardi Gras” party before we start cancer treatment. We understand the cycle of surgery/chemo/radiation as a season of suffering that we have to pass through so we can come back to life.

But when we come back, what do we want life to be? That’s where the Louisiana way can teach us something. On the bayou, we don’t think of happiness as something we earn. It’s our right, just like dancing the two-step on Saturday night.

The cancer voyage gives us a priceless chance to start over and start happier. We can drop some expectations on the way. We can loosen up, admit more to ourselves about what we really want and need.

I feel sorry for my cancer buddies who come from severe backgrounds where it’s all about hard work and the value of a dollar. I hear them talk about picking up life after treatment like it’s a to-do list.

They always seem to start with accusing themselves: “What did I do wrong to get cancer?” Then they go right to the penalty phase: “I will never misbehave again!”

From the medical viewpoint, of course we want to trace our case histories. We want to understand what happened inside us and how to discourage recurrence.

But “what did I do wrong to get cancer?” That’s not science. That’s our fear talking, and we don’t answer to our fear. Besides, nobody ever based a vision for the future on “I will never take another risk.”

What do you want out of your new life? That’s a bold question—or it ought to be. For us cancer voyagers, I put it another way: What’s your Well Again? What do you love most? What do you want more of? That’s what you and cancer are arguing about, and I hope it’s not whether you filed your taxes on time.

Getting well after cancer, that’s about taking your tamoxifen. Getting Well Again beyond cancer is about more than medicine: It’s about reactivating all those parts of life we don’t bring to the doctor.

If you do a double shot of wheat grass, that’s one way to be Well Again. If you top it off with a screening of “Double Indemnity” and a double shot of Glenfiddich, that could be even better. What’s your Well Again? It’s up to you.

On your graduation day from cancer treatment, your caregivers will tell you to go out and live life to the fullest. If you’re from one of those dutiful places on the map, this may cause you some anxiety. That’s okay. Start small. Leave the top off the toothpaste.

Sleep late. See a movie with subtitles. Play “Chopsticks.” Don’t wait, that’s the main thing.

This is life, people! Mardi Gras is just around the corner. Let the good times roll.

I’d love to hear your stories about living on beyond cancer. Please email me here, or at anne@wellagain.org.

And please know that the Clear ID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about Clear ID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com.

Precision Medicine and its Promise

Genomics knowledge is in the process of transforming the way cancer is understood, diagnosed and treated. Viewed at the molecular level, cancer is many different diseases. The concept behind precision medicine is that genomic information could guide treatments based on the specific genetic profile of a particular individual’s tumor—not just by where the cancer is found in the body.

CREATING MY REALITY IN THE CANCERVERSE

January 29, 2017 Hey my people,

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”

That quote, spoken by the great philosopher Lily Tomlin, is a founding principle of my work with Well Again. Let me explain.

We cancer people don’t take strength from our community. This has bothered me from the start. I could never understand why, when there are so many of us, we don’t look to each other for friendship, understanding, and the occasional dance party.

What are we? Chopped liver?

Actually, yeah. Kind of. Our medical caregivers group us by the organ or system they dissected: we’re breast or prostate or colon or whatever. We never see each other out in the world, living our lives. We never meet each other as people. This is a shame. If I’m going to be in a club, I want to be known for something other than my sutures.

For many of us, our medical treatment, bad as it is, is the least upsetting thing we go through. We don’t say this, but it feels like cancer attacks more than our bodies. This illness comes at us at a soul level. It undermines our sense of ourselves in the world. It wrecks our reality. Not just once, but again and again.

This is the kinship we don’t talk about. I don’t care how many breakthroughs science has made; the word cancer still hits us like a baseball bat. Over and over, every scan or procedure or visit, we brace ourselves for The News. Even if it’s good news, we’re exhausted afterward. (After 15 years of this, I refuse to go home from a scan without stopping for a chocolate shake. There’s gotta be some justice.)

When people talk about the battle with cancer, I think they mean the fortitude to face life without certainty. It takes courage to show up for a specific treatment, but that’s secondary. What comes first, always, is the courage to face those moments when cancer upends everything we thought was real.

To our credit, we always get past the blow and get moving again. It takes a minute, but we do it—over and over, as long as it takes, right up to this moment, right now.

The tools that get us through are not the ones we learned in school. Now’s our chance to ask ourselves: What do we most love doing? What really gives us a charge? Misbehavior is usually involved.

How we feel about the cancer voyage, how we choose to see it, can help our chances of surviving. Doctors don’t know exactly how our state of mind improves our ability to heal. But they tell me that it does.

Thinking for ourselves, doing what we love, telling the truth, cherishing our memories, making new ones—these are the tools that matter. The more we practice them, the more we know what makes us Well Again. It’s not whether we make it to remission and stay there. It’s whether we use cancer as a motivator to help us live our most authentic lives in every moment we’re given.

In life beyond cancer, Well Again is something we do.

Which brings me back to Lily Tomlin. In her brilliant stage show, The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, Lily portrays Trudy the Bag Lady, who tells us going crazy was the best thing that ever happened to her.

“I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore,” says Trudy. “After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin’ but a collective hunch.”

Thanks to Lily, I know that while it’s bashing us around, cancer shows us that reality is not what we think. Sometimes it’s actually better. Even when The News is bad, reality keeps right on moving. We get the chance to embrace the ride, in whatever way is most meaningful for us.

When I see a beautiful woman with a pink ribbon, I think, She’s rising above cancer. I get that, but I choose to go a different way. I figure if cancer is going to mess with me, I want to look hard to kill. I show up at the cancer center in a black leather jacket with shades on top.

These tactics, the leather jacket and the pink ribbon, are equally honorable. They both show the resourcefulness and creativity of this community. We are awesome. That’s reality.

I can be on my way out of the cancer center, feeling like a wilted salad, and if the right song comes on my radio, I start singing. I can’t help myself. The reality of five minutes ago gives way, and the reality of five minutes from now is a whole new story waiting to happen.

Which reality is real? I vote for the one with the backbeat. Who’s with me?

I’d love to hear your stories about living on beyond cancer. Please email me here, or at anne@wellagain.org.

And please know that the ClearID liquid biopsy test, which is awesome, may be an important tool for your health. To learn more about ClearID, please click on www.clearidmonitoring.com

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