48 Hours: My Life in a Clinical Trial


At LIVESTRONG we are all about giving you the best information possible and we like to do it from the patient’s perspective. In this guest post by LIVESTRONG friend and cancer blogger, Jody Schoger, talks about her recent experience as part of a clinical trial. Interested in taking part in a clinical trail like Jody? Contact LIVESTRONG. As Jody says below, finding a clinical trial that you qualify for can be daunting. We can help!

Re-posted with permission from Jody’s blog: WomenwithCancer.Blogspot.com

What if?
What if, once you turned 50, you could bypass the well-known and dreaded prep for colon cancer screening with something much simpler, and much easier?
What if that test were as simple as a blood test?
What if the only thing standing between that possibility and reality were healthy volunteers (that would be us, friends) who could spare a few hours and a few poops to participate in a clinical trial?
Sigh. Yes. I said poop.
OK, I said a few poops.

Let’s use our inside, adult voices now. All I want is for you to use whatever word you need to keep reading. For most people shit happens daily. For too many, so does colorectal cancer, the third largest cancer killer in our country. It can be readily detected – and cured – long before invasive cancer has developed.

Here’s what happened. I was on deck to have a follow-up colonoscopy this year. My first was ten years ago when I finished breast cancer treatment. Ever since my diagnosis I thought the topic of a clinical trial would be part of treatment at MD Anderson. Even if you’re willing, finding the right trial is anything but easy. Until last week.

The researchers found me. There was the first surprise. And they waited for me, and not the other way around, while I was meeting with a nurse practitioner to discuss my upcoming colonoscopy. After all, I needed to select my preferred flavor of GO-Lytely (honestly, who could you make that word up?) and anesthesia, since something other than “Just Knock Me Out” was required for the orders.

The trial, as you’ve already guessed, will test whether or not a proprietary biomarker in blood, urine, and stool samples can accurately predict the presence of adenocarinoma, the most common form of colorectal cancer. This is a ten-center project sponsored by NCI’s Early Detection Research Network  that seeks to accrue 6000 patients over the next three years. Let’s say that everything works out, awesomely and wonderfully. Even with that, the earliest the news would hit the public eye through papers, conferences and then to the media would be five years.  That’s science. And if it doesn’t work out, if the hypothesis fails, the only time you’ll hear about this is possibly now.

In real life science can be excruciatingly slow. In real life the two researchers (whom I can’t identify even though they were terrific) had to think through every possible way the sampling process could go wrong …in detail you don’t want to imagine although we had a great laugh about someone whose sample rolled away. Needless to say, I listened and signed the consent form. Blood was drawn and a urine sample was produced.

Back to the poop.

It really wasn’t so bad.  My new research friends went through every aspect of my ‘homework,’ and they then they sent me home with the necessary supplies in a white-shopping bag. At MD Anderson the white shopping is a clear giveaway for #NewPatientOnBoard. You might as well just stamp “Please Help Me” on your forehead. It was difficult not to tell many sympathetic onlookers that this was nothing more than a “shitty test” but I held my tongue. I just smiled.

Because the fact is we need to smile and laugh to work through our weird feelings about every single substance our bodies produce, regardless of what end is involved. I laugh right along with and at myself, especially in my anal (oh, so appropriate) attempts to make sure I followed the instructions to the letter. Heaven forbid my samples might fail to qualify. If there’s a marker to be found then let mine be the first in line.

Earlier today I read a phenomenal post by Pat Steer, a CRC survivor I wrote about two years ago. Today she is the same woman, with the same clarity and courage. But her health is not the same.  She has stopped treatment and describes this in No More Room in the Bucket.

Her post just happened to overlap my writing today. It reminds us to move past the ‘ew factor for the greater good. If you’re 50 and older, don’t wait to discuss colorectal cancer screening with your doctor. Bring the topic up if she doesn’t. If you live near one of these cancer centers. Consider joining the clinical trial I just concluded. My last bit of  homework is now in the mail.  In the long scheme of things it wasn’t much to ask.  No, not at all.


  1. Pat Steer says:

    Jody, I’m so glad you participated in this trial. Every test we try to make detecting CRC more accessible is one more step forward toward saving lives. Be well.

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