It was a simple movement that alerted Carol Glock to her cancer. As she leaned over her husband’s shoulder to read something on his computer, her left breast brushed his back and she noticed it felt sore.
“I did a self-exam and noticed a hardness and that the skin appeared red and swollen,” Glock says.
Glock went the very next day to see her gynecologist, and she was alarmed at his reaction. “His face literally went white,” Glock says.
He immediately referred Glock to an imaging center for a mammogram, which revealed a tumor in her left breast. The diagnosis was inflammatory breast cancer, a very rare and aggressive form. Symptoms include redness, swelling, tenderness and warmth—all things Glock was experiencing.
“This is only seen in 1% to 5% of all breast cancer patients in the U.S., and I was told there is only a 20% chance to survive,” Glock says.
Surprise and opportunity
It was June 6, 2013, a date Glock remembers vividly. The news was devastating to Glock and her husband, Tim, on many levels. First, they had the initial surprise that comes with any diagnosis. They also had to deal with the severity of the prognosis.
But something else made Glock’s diagnosis all the more jarring. As the director of the Physical Education and Wellness Department at Washington and Jefferson College, in Washington, Pa., Glock’s life has a health care focus. She runs and exercises regularly, and teaches good nutrition and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Furthermore, there was no history of breast cancer in her family and she had had regular mammograms.
“I felt numb. Both of us were in shock,” she says.
Glock was referred to Dr. Thomas Julian, a breast surgeon at Allegheny General Hospital. Because the mass in her breast was so large—8 centimeters by 7 centimeters—Julian recommended Glock undergo chemotherapy to try to shrink it before surgery. He also offered her an option that Glock felt was instrumental in her recovery: the chance to participate in a clinical drug trial using Neratinib, a drug that targets and blocks proteins that help cancer cells grow.
“This was such a good opportunity.
I took the drug every day while I was also in the standard treatment,” she says.
Three weeks after she began the trial drug, a mammogram showed some surprising results. “My tumor was pretty much gone,” Glock says.
Glock finished her standard course of treatment, which included the chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. In February 2014, Julian performed a mastectomy to remove Glock’s left breast and also removed a few lymph nodes. She also continued with the drug trial throughout.
On Dec. 29, 2014, Glock had her last treatment. Though she still goes in every six months for an exam, Glock has been declared cancer free.
Advocating for others
Glock firmly believes that her positive outcome was the result of the trial drug. She believes so strongly, that in September 2015, she started the Glock Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization aimed at promoting the awareness and opportunity of clinical trial drugs.
“After my experience, I wanted other breast cancer patients to know how participating in a clinical trial can help their prognosis,” she says.
Glock raises funds through her foundation for research toward curing breast cancer. She speaks to groups and organizations to spread the word.
As part of her mission, Glock shares her story and encourages others to participate in clinical trials.
She stresses that knowing your options is one of the most important aspects of care for breast cancer patients. In addition to the standard method of care, she suggests they explore what clinical drug trials may be available to them. It’s a decision that actually puts the patient in more control.
“You still receive the standard treatment. You aren’t denied anything or given any different treatment,” she says.
“The trial drug is given along with the standard treatment and you can quit at any time. That is very important for people to know.”
She says by participating in clinical trials, you’re not just helping yourself, you’re also helping others.
“You are not an experiment. You still receive the same outstanding, awesome care that I received at Allegheny General Hospital, but you also receive drugs that might not only save your life, but could help save others,” Glock says.