publication date: Mar. 17, 2017

Beth Caldwell: People like me will die because of these cuts

Beth Caldwell, a patient with metastatic neuroendocrine breast cancer, has more to lose than anyone else in the controversy over President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the NIH budget.

Caldwell, who is undergoing treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, spoke at a news conference broadcast live on the cancer center’s Facebook page.


The text of her remarks follows:

My name is Beth Caldwell and I have metastatic neuroendocrine breast cancer. I was diagnosed in March of 2014. I found a lump in my breast and I was 37, too young to be getting mammograms yet, and it turned out that it had already spread to my bones, which means that it’s incurable, currently. And I’d like to add that currently, the more research we do, the more likely it is that I’m going to live to see my children into adulthood.

My children right now are five and nine. My goal when I was initially diagnosed was to see my youngest start kindergarten, and she will in the fall. I would really like to set some new goals, but it’s hard to do that when we see research funding cuts happening.

I’ve lost—I can’t even tell you—how many friends with metastatic cancers within the time since I’ve been diagnosed. I lost one this week. Another friend told me today she was just diagnosed with brain metastases, which means that her expected life span just shortened by quite a bit. And it’s not okay. It’s just not acceptable that people will die because of these cuts.

And I’m going to say that again—people like me will die because of these cuts. We just spent all this effort getting the 21st Century Cures Act passed, which slated more funding for research, including into cancer. And to see that undone, I feel like our government will have blood on its hands if these cuts go through. I frankly would love to watch my children grow into adulthood but I think currently, that’s not likely to happen.

The only treatments left for me are going to be ones that are experimental. I’ve been through all the regular treatments already in the past three years and they’ve all stopped working, which is what happens when you have metastatic cancer. You take a drug until it stops and then you take a new one. And if there aren’t new ones, then you die.

So we need this funding for NIH. We need funding for research to keep patients alive longer, to keep them alive longer with a quality of life that’s acceptable. And so I desperately hope that people will begin to contact their members of Congress and demand that this budget with these cuts to NIH not be passed.

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