Tampa, Fla - "I am a 46 years old, terminally ill with breast cancer. My live is engulfed in tumors. "
So begins the story of Darlene Gant, wife of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer player Brian Gant. "So here I am with a drain coming out of my liver and barely able to eat. I've wasted down to 140 pounds. I lost 30 pounds, watched my muscle mass disappear. My skin is hanging like I'm 90. My face looks like Skelator and I can't get up more than an hour or an hour and a half a day."
She's also a mother to 11 year old Cameron who she fears will only remember her through video and cards. "I have other cards for my son. When he's 18, what's it's like for a man, when he's twenty one, when he's twenty five, when he gets married. It's pretty sad cancer has taken my life to the point I have to plan what I'm going to do for my son so he remembers me?"
In a last effort to fight for life, Darlene asked her doctor at Moffitt Cancer Center if she, the doctor, would write a letter to Genentech - a company with an investigational drug that showed promise in treating Darlene's HER2 positive breast cancer. That was in September she says. She had another doctor write a letter, and even friends but Darlene says it didn't look like Genentech would release the drug for what's called compassionate use.
So she made a video and posted it on YouTube, pleading for the FDA and Genentech to have mercy. "Pertuzumab won't be released by the FDA until June of this year. Meanwhile no one can use it for compassionate use, including me."
As her social media plea kicked off she also called me. I contacted the FDA, Moffitt Cancer Center and Genentech and Friday night, April 20 th, I got an email from Genentech saying in part:
I wanted to let you know that Genentech has agreed to provide Pertuzumab to Darlene Gant on a compassionate use basis."
Senior manager, corporate relations
Genentech says they are working with her doctors to make sure she can start the drug as soon as possible. Darlene wants to share her story about how you can't give up fighting for life and how any one with a terminal illness can appeal for an investigational drug for compassionate use. It's not easy and it doesn't always work but in the coming days we'll share with you what both Darlene and I have learned about the process.
If you have any questions or would like to comment on Darlene's story - or you just want to see it, I posted a link to her YouTube video on my Facebook fan page. All you have to do is go to http://www.facebook.com/#!/LindaHurtadoWFTS