Dr. Detroit!

We love Detroit!

Well, maybe not the urban wasteland / don’t-take-a-wrong-turn-sucka city proper – but we definitely love the gleaming, amazing Karmanos Cancer Center, stuck incongruously in the heart of it.  And we especially love the brilliant clinical trial leader there, who shall hereafter be referred to as Dr. Detroit.

Dr. Detroit is world-renowned for her work in testing new cancer drugs. She’s been at Karmanos for 21 years and in that time has brought so many important anti-cancer drugs to market that she’s become a bit of a cancer legend.  In person, she’s a thorough, straight-talking, personable, smart, get-it-done whirlwind of a woman – but what we liked best is that she seems completely unafraid to give us hope.  Specifically, hope that this drug will work for me. Hope that I might live.  She did it in part by saying that for HER2+ cancer, TDM1 is the best drug she has ever worked with. 

This is the first time we can remember sitting in the presence of an oncologist who will use a word stronger than “interesting” to describe a trial drug and its potential benefit.  And frankly, I really would like a drug to do more than “interest” me, especially if we are going to have to travel several hundred miles every week and raise several tens of thousands of dollars to get it.

Anyway, there we were, listening to Dr. Detroit and feeling the unfamiliar buoyancy of hope for the first time in forever. Amazingly, I was also feeling more energetic than I had in weeks, which was unexpected, especially after the long drive Wednesday (we’ll be taking the train next time.) In fact I’d been totally exhausted when we checked into our room on the hospital campus the evening before, and had a low fever as I got into a hot bath while my husband went out to forage for food.  (Let’s just note here that driving around downtown Detroit after dark with Ontario plates and no idea where he’s going is not what I would describe as typical of his intelligence and good judgment, but he did make it back in one piece.) By the time he came back, I was feeling better, sitting up reading in bed, and he remarked that I had colour in my cheeks again and wasn’t coughing continuously.  “I don’t want to jinx anything,” he said, “But do you think the chemo could already be working?”

In the morning, I was even better.  Neither of us could believe that I was able to walk across the hospital grounds to the clinic, and then sit, eat, talk, and just generally function at an almost normal level.  It was a surprise to both of us; hard to believe I was the same woman who, four days earlier, couldn’t get out of bed to get a glass of water. Mind you, four weeks earlier I could go for long walks and chase pigeons through the park with my kid…  Anyway, we were just happy that I didn’t seem quite so ready for the Final Curtain anymore.

So when Dr. Detroit remarked that I presented a pretty darn healthy picture for someone whose records note that her oncologist had been recommending palliative care, we confessed that this returned energy was new.  “Hm,” she said, “Maybe the vinorelbine is already working.”  (More hope!)  It turns out that far from disqualifying me from the trial, she wholly endorses me getting chemo and has encouraged me to continue to get it weekly, if possible, until the 21-day cut-off point.

So, if all goes well, I can begin the trial in May. I will get TDM1 plus two other drugs, pertuzumab and Taxol.  They’re being tested in combination for the first time together, which is why this is called a Phase 1 trial, but the drugs themselves are not Phase 1 drugs – they’ve reached far beyond that – and I am optimistic that they can really help me.  

What if it works?  I think it really could.  Really, I do, because Dr. Detroit does, and she’s been around the cancer block a few times.

But first, all must go well. Meaning I have to get through at least five more weeks without my health deteriorating any further, I have to navigate the not inconsiderable administrative hurdles of getting my records transferred to Karmanos, I have to continue to get vinorelbine (and even lobby to get an extra dose, if possible) and I have to raise massive amounts of money.

But most important of all – and here, ladies and gentlemen, is the catch – there can be no brain metastases. Because if there is, I am not eligible for the trial. Period.  

Or, as I like to say, if there is cancer in the brain, I can’t get on the train.

So, even though the CT scan was clear, everything now depends on an MRI of my brain. I believe I can get through all the other challenges, but this one thing I just can’t control.  Why is there an aura in my right eye? Go away, damn aura. Out damn spot!   Becasue having just found hope again, I can’t stand the idea of losing it so soon.



Filed under Living with Breast Cancer

30 responses to “Dr. Detroit!

  1. Eva

    Happy Easter Leanne and to the family! And a clean MRI and lots of strength to organize everyting!I am praying and crossing my fingers and toes and even my eyes for you!Thanks for writing today! I think I am not alone for looking the blog today in every hour!Lots of love from Eva

  2. Jen T

    So glad to hear this news! Keep your head up – if Dr.Detroit has hope, you can have hope! As you’ve said many times; what if it works?!!! Happy Hoppy Easter.

  3. diane

    This is what we all want to hear! Yes! Thank you for getting this posting out so quickly (!!!) and Happy Easter!
    Love Diane

  4. Gwen

    Eva’s right. She was not alone in checking your Blog site today. I am so glad you took the time to update us, because you really have been on my mind all day, yesterday and today. It is wonderful that you have had such a positive experience at Karmanos. The oncologist sounds terrific. You certainly needed (and deserved) a change from the downers you’ve been dealing with lately. And it goes without saying that I am glad you are feeling better physically as well. Now all fingers and toes are crossed for good results of the MRI whenever it is scheduled. As far as the aura is concerned, could it possibly be a side-effect of some of the chemo meds? A friend of mine is having visual problems and was told it was because of his chemo treatments. Happy and hopeful Easter to you and your family!

  5. Anita

    Yay! Doing a little happy dance for you. Keeping everything crossed for the MRI.

  6. Tami

    So glad to hear that there is hope for you entering the TDM1 trial! Wondering if anyone on your team has looked into setting up a pay pal account that will accept donations for your treatment? Would love to be able to help you out in this small way and am looking forward to hearing how we can participate in the fund raising.

  7. Lisa B.

    I too have been checking every hour, but it’s been hard to type in the URL with my fingers crossed. So glad at your positive experience and, more importantly, how bouyant you sound. Enjoy the weekend! And let me also put my hat in the ring for fundraising of any kind.

  8. Doona

    Yay, that sounds great. I am so happy for you!!! Things are looking up. I am thinking of you loads and loads of times each day. Take care.

  9. holly

    So happy to see your blog! We have all been biting our nails….and pacing. This is wonderful news and I feel so high. Aura, Shmaura. Period. Nothing is going to get in the way of how positive I am feeling right now. Everything feels real again and not bogged down by fear. I am so clear and this moment is right. The cancer is just gone. The cancer is just gone. And I love you. So big.

  10. Mary Lou

    I too have been thinking of you so much over the last few days. So glad to hear things are looking up, and you sound so positive, you deserve it. Have a wonderful weekend with your family.

  11. Andrea

    I am so happy to hear that TDM1 is so promising, (being Her2+ myself). I hope, hope , hope that your MRI is clear. If you were to set up anything online for raising funds towards your treatment, I would be happy to donate, (as I’m sure many others would who follow your blog).

  12. Sandra

    Terriffffffic news!!! Set up a paypal account to help raise the funds – every little penny will help.

  13. Sleepless in San Francisco

    Tears of relief and hope for you – obviously shared with all the wonderful people who follow your blog. Hope you can now enjoy a really happy weekend. As a Scottish aunt of mine used to say “Lang may yer lum reek.” I think it was something about hoping your chimney keeps working (which apparently was a big deal in the highlands) – in other words, here’s to long, smokin’ hot life…

  14. Tara Shields

    Hope springs eternal. I truly believe there will be no cancer in your brain and you WILL get on that train. We will be strong for you.

  15. Andrew Giles

    Fantastic News! Yippee! One step at a time right! 🙂 Also, I can set up a website such that people can donate to this cause via PayPal if you’d like? Least I could do. 😉 What do you think?

  16. Maureen

    You are an inspiration.

    Keep on keeping on!

  17. Celia McBride

    POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS EVERYONE: There is no cancer in Leanne’s body. None whatsoever. Leanne is perfectly healthy. Leanne is cancer free. Leanne’s brain is cancer free. There is only perfect health. Metaphysics, kids. It works if you work it!

  18. angela

    Thrilled for you and yours, set up a donation website I would be happy to help out, You have turned the corner I know it!!!!!love angela

  19. Sarah Milke

    From me and Emily Dickinson to you Leanne…..

    Hope is the thing with feathers
    That perches in the soul
    And sings the tune without the words,
    And never stops at all
    And sweetest in the gale is heard.

    Thinking about you, Sarah M.

  20. Tess

    Dear Leanne,
    Thanks for the update!! Like everyone else I too waited anxiously for news. I’m thrilled that things are moving in the right direction. Have a wonderful Easter Leanne.


  21. Wendy

    Dear Leanne

    ready to donate ….tell us how

    Sending Easter blessings to you and your family


  22. leanne coppen

    My lovely friends, thanks for sharing in our giddy new hope! We are hanging onto it with all we’ve got. That + whatever the chemo is doing are making middle-of-the-night coughing attacks a bit less frightening, making it possible to get out of bed for a little while a few times a day, and making the headaches more bearable (if still a little ominous.)

    I’m so moved by all your offers to support my fundraising efforts. My family and friends have already set up a paypal account – I will get the details or ask them to post the info soon. I’m EXTREMELY uncomfortable asking for donations — but let’s just say I’m a lot more uncomfortable with the idea of dying. Thank-you all for wanting so much to help me — you can’t imagine what it means to me. Happy tears for a change, at all these amazing kind hearts out there…

    Hope everyone is enjoying the Easter weekend, whatever your religious inclination. As a faltering atheist, I can only say that the combination of sunshine and chocolate (yes, I know: dark only!) has got to be good for the soul.

    With tons of gratitude,

  23. Doona


    I would love to donate to your account, Leanne.

    I am hoping that you are having a good Easter day with your family.

    I am so happy that things are looking brighter for you.

    Feel those flutters. They are my messages for you.

    Take care.

  24. Tami

    Please don’t be uncomfortable about receiving donations, Leanne. There are few in this world who haven’t had cancer come roaring in to disrupt their lives in some manner. So being able to contribute funds toward your treatment is an opportunity to not sit by idly; to participate in stopping this hideous disease from marching on. It unites friends, family and yes, cyber strangers too, who have been touched by your plight. So enjoy your sunshine and chocolate and just rest in knowing that there are many chomping at the bit to help you.

  25. lejla h

    Dear Leanne,

    I just read about the donations account after going through readers’ comments – count us in for sure!!!

    much love and positive energy (from the town with 16 000 inhabitants, where cab rides are flat-rate 4.50) 🙂


  26. Hank

    Leanne, I can only imagine how much better you are feeling! I know my heart is lighter and I feel so incredibly positive about this new treatment. I would be extremely happy to donate to your cause as I’m sure would so many others. We are all on the same team here – cheering you on and willing to do anything to see you well and cancer free! Let us know how to get to the donation site. Happy, Happy news!!!!!! Love you!

  27. momof3

    Oh Happy Day! what good news you brought us – I am sure we were all (I was anyway) holding our collective breaths on your behalf. Enjoy the sunshine and chocolate. – Keep hangin’ on to that potato! Waiting for the paypal update.

    Happy Easter to you and Yours.

  28. Veronica Van Rooyen

    So HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY for you!!!!! Hope on, kiddo. I’m hoping with you! Yay, Dr. Detroit!


  29. carol cotton

    You can do this Leanne. we are pulling for you all the way.
    You are the bravest,most determined person I know and we will all help you get there.
    much,much love
    Carol and Mick

  30. Spawn of Doctors

    Hello all!

    There is a website ready to go. It will be updated with news of the fundraiser but already has a donation button set up and ready to go. Please visit:


    Please note that you do NOT need a PayPal account to donate. When you click donate, on the left side of the page, it allows you to donate via credit card. Thanks for your support!!

    And, Leanne, I encourage you (and, in fact, direct you!) to include this URL in your next blog post. We’re getting you to Motown for as along as you need!

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