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The Culprit is Cancer

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Fall 1998
The Culprit is Cancer
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"Dr. Slamon is so incredibly wonderful to talk to," Lori Rinde says, as she sits in a big, comfortable chair in UCLA's Bowyer Oncology Center, Herceptin dripping from an IV into her body. "The fact I was able to get in on this study - I'm so thrilled."

Rinde is 41. She has freckles across her nose and clear, blue eyes. On a Wednesday afternoon in early June, she is wearing faded jeans, a dark gray sweater and blue Birkenstocks. Her inch-high, spiky blonde hair, which has yet to grow back after she had chemotherapy, is tucked under a navy-blue baseball cap. As Rinde receives her weekly, half-hour infusion of Herceptin, her son Corey, a towheaded boy of 3, plays quietly near her feet. Rinde also has two daughters, Chelsea, 13, and Kate, 10. "They're a huge part of my recovery," Rinde says. "They keep me uplifted."

Rinde was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, at age 33, three months after discovering a pea-sized lump in her right breast. The disease was so aggressive she had a modified radical mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy.

For more than four years Rinde had been in remission when she got a shock: She was pregnant. She discussed her medical history with her OB-GYN and a cancer specialist, considered the danger a pregnancy might pose to her health. But Lori and her husband, Paul, decided to have the baby. It was a decision, it seemed, that was meant to be. Rinde had her healthiest pregnancy, and when Corey was born, it was her easiest birth.

"Corey was nine months old when I found another lump," Rinde recalls. In April 1996, she had a lumpectomy on her left breast and a month later began chemotherapy in an effort to contain the tumor. She also had a CT scan done of her liver and pelvis.

Not long after, she went in to see her doctor. She vividly remembers the look on his face. "He was completely white," she says. "He had to tell me there were several lesions in my spine, liver and femur."

This time Rinde's cancer was even more virulent than before. After rejecting a proposed bone marrow transplant, she and her family began to search for alternatives. Her sister-in-law had recently read about the HER-2 studies under way at UCLA. Tissue samples of Rinde's tumors were tested and proved positive for the specific genetic alteration Slamon was investigating.

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