Elizabeth Edwards has a type of breast cancer that is treatable by estrogen agonists.
Mrs. Edwards, pointing out a large bruise on the back of her hand and another on her forearm from her IV, said she got an initial course of a bone-building drug. She's also taking Femara, an aromatase inhibitor, but is not undergoing chemotherapy treatments.
She said the development of drugs such as Femara is one of many reasons that reports that she's likely to die within five years are not accurate.
"Femara didn't exist five years ago," she said. "I don't expect to get yesterday's medicine. If I can help it, I'd like to get tomorrow's medicine."
Several news organization have reported an American Cancer Society statistic that says the five-year survival rate for Stage IV breast cancer that spread to other organs is just 26 percent. But the cancer society put out a statement saying that is not applicable in her case because it only applies when a woman initially walks into a doctor's office with Stage IV breast cancer, not when she had treatment and the cancer later spread.
There are few good estimates of survival time for these patients. Treatment is easiest if the recurrence is limited to the breast area, and survival is much shorter if the cancer spreads aggressively to vital organs like the liver, lungs or brain.
The bone seems to be somewhere in the middle. A subset of patients with estrogen receptor-positive tumors that appear in only the bone have a good chance at surviving for 10 years, according to Dr. Julia Smith, head of the New York University Cancer Institutes' breast cancer prevention program.
Mrs. Edwards said she's marking 10 years as her "bottom line."
"But even then I'm not happy," she said. "I'm 67 in 10 years. That's not enough. I've got more stuff to do."
Ten years isn't enough. But it beats the hell out of ten months, and Elizabeth, every minute we have you is a blessing.
Keep up the good fight.
I've got your back.