‘Cheryl is alive because of it’: Special drug helps local breast cancer survivor

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side continues its crusade to Crush Cancer. 

Last week, Andy Fox reported on the battle Virginia Beach Resident Cheryl McLeskey is waging against HER2-positive breast cancer.

Now, a report on the drugs that are saving her life. 

Cheryl’s story is about increasing the chances of survival through cancer research that produces new and improved drugs.

Crush Cancer to benefit Cycle for Survival and Memorial Sloan Kettering helps raise that money.

“I praise God that I got a breast cancer when I did.  If I got it 10 years earlier, I wouldn’t be here,” says Cheryl McLeskey.

“HER2-positive” breast cancer survivors like McLeskey owe their lives to billions of dollars in cancer research.

Cheryl was shocked when she got cancer, “Look, nobody in my family had had cancer.  My mother is 92 years old, and my father passed away at 97.”

Ultrasound pictures show Cheryl’s advanced dark cancerous tumor on her left breast.  Another picture shows seven dark spots of cancer in the lymph nodes under her arm.  

Cheryl’s Sentara surgical oncologist is Dr. Jennifer Reed, “Cheryl is alive because of it, and had she not had this drug, her tumor was very well advanced, when we first found it, if she did not have this drug, she would already have passed away.”

The drug Dr. Reed credits with saving Cheryl’s life is the chemotherapy drug Herceptin, which is a tumor melting chemotherapy.

“This one literally targets the protein, the HER2 protein, and it kills it.” 

The Herceptin roams the blood looking for Her 2 positive in other parts of the body too.

“It can actually find it in lymph nodes, it can find it in the liver, I actually had a patient who had it in the liver.  She is now three years out, and they still can’t find it,” Dr. Reed says.

Herceptin almost didn’t come to market.  The movie Living Proof starring Harry Connick Jr. was a film based on the Herceptin research and bringing one of the greatest medical discoveries of all time to market.  

Cheryl’s medical oncologist Dr. Michael Danso with Virginia Oncology Associates completed a fellowship at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York where he served as chief fellow.

“That’s where groups like Crush and other groups really help deliver funds to places like Sloan Kettering, and other cancer centers to deliver the funds to places like Sloan Kettering, and other cancer centers to help the research at those cancer centers,” Danso said.

Cheryl takes Herceptin, Perjeta, and Neratinib.  Dr. Danso says the aggressive HER-2 positive breast cancer, which once carried a 50-50 chance for survival, is now 80-90 percent with these drugs.

“People should know there are significant advances in breast cancer, and with breast cancer caught early there is a significant chance they will survive breast cancer,” Danso said.

That means self breast examinations are important, but what’s critical is regular mammograms and regular physician examinations.

As for Cheryl, a longtime supporter of Crush Cancer to benefit Memorial Sloan Kettering cancer research, she knows all about the importance of cancer research.

“If it hadn’t been for the research and all the money that goes to research.  I would not be alive. Research saved my life,” Cheryl concludes.

Cheryl and WAVY-TV are in a head-to-head competition raising money to Crush Cancer. 100 percent of all money raised goes towards cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City. 

Join our battle to crush cancer Sunday May 6. Go online to wavy.com to sign up a team, and/or contribute to Cheryl vs. Andy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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