cherie-book[Editor’s Note: Cherie Rineker is the author of A Pilgrimage Without End, How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart. Cherie has pledged $1,000,000 to multiple myeloma research when 1,000,000 copies of her book have sold. To purchase a signed copy, visit]

Cancer gave me the gift of realizing how precious and wonderful this life is, with all its lessons and perceived “challenges.” It has given me the chance to prepare for the end, whether it arrives tomorrow or in a few decades. I appreciate every day in all its wonder and glory, and I don’t take much of what happens in the world quite a seriously as I once did. I have noticed how so many people love to feel outraged. Maybe by pointing the finger outward, they feel they do not have to work on what needs attention on the inside. Yet, it is only there that we can find Peace, Love and Happiness.

This summer I cleaned out my closets and held a garage sale. I put several of my books out with the rest of my stuff. An older gentleman came by and looked at the books. He asked if I was cured, and I said I was still doing treatments. He than asked me if I had a dog. I said, “Yes. I have a sweet little dog named Coco.” Without hesitation he replied, “Get rid of it!” I am not joking! He said it with a straight face; he had read it in some book. Last thing I knew pets are actually wonderful for our health.

Get rid of your root canals. Get rid of your fillings. Get rid of your teeth!? I am not kidding—I have heard them all. I am not saying that root canals are the best things to have in your mouth, but to just go ahead and start pulling teeth, all in the hopes of seeing the cancer disappear, is a leap of faith I am not willing to take at this moment. I never minded losing my hair, but me… without a smile … I am just not ready to go there yet. Quality over quantity, right?

In dealing with cancer, I have tried lots of remedies. Unfortunately, it seemed that no amount of vitamin C, D, CoQ 10, fish oils and turmeric was able to bring my numbers down. I took garlic—lots of garlic! It was wonderful for keeping people away, but it did not keep the cancer away. A very concerned client sold me a drink once and guaranteed me it would help me get rid of the cancer. She seemed so sincere and caring that I tried it. This was at the beginning of my diagnosis, and I was willing to do anything—and pay anything—to get better. She told me to give the drink three months. I religiously drank it three times a day. The bottle was $29, and I went through it in about three days. My numbers stayed the same, and I did not feel any better or worse from taking it.

Three months and almost $900 later, I told her it really had not helped me at all. She responded that I should be drinking a bottle a day. She was in tears! She wanted to see me better, and she knew her drink would cure me. I told her I did not have the money for a bottle a day. “How much is your life worth to you, your children and your husband?” she asked in a rather accusatory tone! I told her that, if she believed it would absolutely heal me, and she cared so much about my welfare, she could provide me with the bottles I needed until the cancer was gone. I promised that when this would happen, I’d happily pay her back all the money for the bottles, and give her a $5,000 bonus on top of it! Interestingly enough, I never heard from her again. Looking back, I am afraid the tears she shed weren’t for me, but rather due to her loss of income. As sad and horrible as it may sound, people do take advantage of the sick.

“Just stay positive!” One of my favorites. JUST!! How do you just stay positive when you can’t even roll over in bed?! When you are permanently stuck with nausea so severe that nothing helps? Sure, I KNOW that being positive IS important, but feeling that you must, or else…… is actually very depressing and stressful, and makes it much harder to just be positive. Leave it up to the patient to get there. Be there for her, listen to him, hold her, but please don’t tell them to … just be positive.

Chemo kills.” Great! Thanks for reminding me of that as I am receiving this toxic medicine that helps to keep me alive. Heck, I used to think this. I remember meeting a woman who had cancer and was getting chemo. I told her I would NEVER do chemo, because chemo kills, right? I don’t blame her for walking away from me and having nothing to do with me after that well-meant, yet very ignorant statement. Yes, cancer certainly humbled me, and that was not a bad thing.

Most of us are very afraid of chemotherapy. I certainly was. The interesting thing was that when I started therapy, it did almost kill me. For the first two months, the numbers actually increased, and I felt twice as bad, having to deal with both the cancer symptoms and the chemo symptoms. I specifically remember asking myself this question: “Cherie, do you still want to be here?” You see, physically I had all but given up, and I was standing at death’s door. Between the pain and a less than optimal home environment where my husband was emotionally incapable of being there for me, it was easy to just let go. But I had a daughter who had just turned 7 and desperately needed her mommy to be there for her. I had not had a good relationship with my mother, and I so much wanted to be there for my daughter. I wanted to raise her in a loving home where she would have a soft place to fall … ME! Something I never had. And so, on that day I made a conscious decision to FIGHT for life, to FIGHT for her! The interesting thing was that the worst of my symptoms started to disappear within a week of making that decision, and the chemo started to bring down my numbers!

God never gives us more than we can handle.” I love this one, like God actually handed me cancer. What has God given you lately?

Of course, the one that baffled me most was when my mother literally told me, “Cherie, stop this nonsense. You don’t have cancer!” Sure Mom, as I am sitting on my bed listening to you on the other side of the phone, my head bald from my second stem cell transplant, I am surely faking it! I went through all these horrible treatments just to try and get your love and sympathy. And look, even that didn’t work!

When my friend told me that there are no “incurable” diseases, only “incurable” people, I decided to tell him the conclusions I had come to:

“My dear friend, cancer feels like having a terrorist in my body, holding a hand grenade with its safety lever released, ready to explode at any time. What to do about this terrorist is a choice that is always up to me. Oh, how I wish I had somebody smarter than me, telling me what to do. My oncologist merely suggests me my treatment options. I know not everybody agrees with my decisions. Having to make these life-or-death decisions is indeed a heavy load, something I wish I did not have to make. People come with all kinds of suggestions. Though I believe they are well meant, they do not help me much. Please know I have tried everything that is out there and that I could afford! I live as healthy as I can, both physically and spiritually, and I do believe it plays a strong part in my well-being, as does the medicine and the chemo. When you tell me there are no incurable diseases, only incurable people, what do you really mean?”

You see I believe cancer helped to “cure” me from years of emotional suffering due to my parents’ abuse. I was cured from a lack of self-worth, because I thought that if my parents did not believe in me, surely nobody would. I was cured from a sense of loneliness, because I never felt I belonged anywhere. Cancer helped me get out of my comfort zone, and I was able to build deeper friendships than I ever allowed myself to have before. You see, if I had been cured from cancer right away, I am not sure I would have been cured from these things. Nor do I think my presence would have helped others as much if, after just a couple of treatments, the cancer would have gone into complete remission. You know, many of us think we know the answers, and we want things a certain way. What we don’t realize is that by wanting things our way, and forcing things our way, we might be missing out on a whole bunch of very valuable lessons. I learned to make life sweet again precisely because of my run-in with cancer and other difficult life situations.

Today, I realize that the best way to love and embrace life is to accept all things life brings us, to surrender to its toughest teachers. When we stop fighting them and see the opportunities they offer us, they no longer have us paralyzed by fear. Instead, we can come to appreciate the lessons they teach us. It took a lot of grieving and letting go of old ideas. It meant letting go of my ego—an ego that did not want to admit that which I had previously thought might have been false. And you know what? In going through this process, I found out that this way of letting go doesn’t need to stop when dealing with a disease. It can also apply to our political views, our parental views, and our ideas about relationships to name just a few. And this is what I like to call …. Evolution!

Hope & Love,


Cherie Rineker, author of A Pilgrimage Without End – How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart


To purchase a signed copy, visit  Also available on Amazon and in Kindle.


cherie-book[Editor’s Note: Cherie Rineker is the author of A Pilgrimage Without End, How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart. Cherie has pledged $1,000,000 to multiple myeloma research when one million copies of her book have sold. To purchase a signed copy, visit]

Allow me to explain why I believe my story stands out from other stories about multiple myeloma. First of all, this is not a story just about cancer. I am neither cured, nor am I off chemotherapy. I have had to learn to live with cancer as well as with the continuous treatment, and I learned to do so in a positive way.

Secondly, my story includes a difficult childhood, something many people can relate to. I have received many positive reactions about this, both from the parents who came to understand what their actions did to their children, and to the ones that were hurt and felt they were given a voice through my book. My story describes the emotional pain I carried into adulthood, and how I was able to overcome it, even thrive, despite it.

Lastly, I think my story brings a very important message about the importance of Hope, Love, Forgiveness, Perseverance and Strength. I did not come into this world any more special than anybody else; I merely chose to use the hardships and cancer as stepping stones to get to a place of Peace and Understanding. I saw my “problems” as opportunities to grow spiritually, rationally and emotionally and was therefore able to overcome heartache and pain.

I believe that God’s main purpose for us is to love and accept one another. The Bible teaches that we have to change and become like little children. I have given this a lot of thought. What is so different about children from us? They come into this world innocent with only two fears: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. A child is, in a sense, like an empty cup. No judgments, no opinions, full of wonder, and eager to learn. Are we? Even those of us that are on this spiritual path, sometimes especially those on this path, can be very closed off to new ideas. Some of us believe we have it all figured out, and though we are willing to teach, even preach, we are not always willing to listen and learn.

cherie-hospitalApplication, the most important part of this journey, can be our toughest challenge. Yet, when we stop resisting and let life take its course, it becomes easy. Humility is another very important thing to learn and live. Boy, have I eaten my share of humble pie. In the beginning, my ego was not happy with this lesson at all. It tried to argue everything that went against my beliefs. Have you ever had that friend that is all messed up, and you know you can help them, but for every good piece of advice you give them there is a “but…”? I have been the friend giving the advice, and I have certainly been the one receiving the advice. It used to drive me crazy when people gave me the “but….” until I realized that what they did with my advice was none of my business. I was there to help, not to convince. The desire to change their lives had to come from them, not me.

It is important to look at the world and people through the eyes of our inner child. Society, our parents and life itself have done a really good job beating fear and judgment into us, and now it is up to us to let go of it.  Surrender and let go of your fears and worries. Accept and appreciate your life as it is today. This does not mean, that if there are things you want to accomplish or habits you want to get rid of, you sit back and wait for it to be “fixed” for you. Accepting things the way they are simply means being okay with life as it is today without letting go of your dreams for tomorrow.

Look at my situation as an example. Just because I was told that the cancer that had invaded my body was “incurable,” this did not stop me from living life and doing everything I could to prove the doctors wrong. Nor did it stop me from finishing school even if it meant writing an essay during the worst part of my treatment and disease when I could barely sit up and think straight. It did not mean waiting for the end to arrive. No, when I could no longer do massages, I started working at a little health food store making much less money than I had in the past. And when I could no longer do that, I started writing, and turned it into a book that got published. Me, a runaway girl from Holland, who never finished high school, came to America, got her GED, and took English 101. Some may think that if anybody had the right to quit, it was me. But if you quit, you kinda die, even if you don’t, if you know what I mean.

I was determined to make these weeks, months and now years (and hopefully decades) count even more than the first part of my life. I know I am living on borrowed time. I should be dead, but I am alive and I am going to make the best of the time I have left!

I recently received a message from a friend of mine that got me thinking about all the advice I have been given since being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Please don’t be offended by his rather outrageous declaration, I wasn’t. Maybe some of you have had similar thoughts about the sick; I certainly did prior to my diagnosis. It made me stop and think about our Belief System—something I have come to refer to as our BS. How desperately do we feel we must hold on to our BS in order to feel we have some level of control over our lives and our bodies? Though I am all for believing whatever gets you through your day, when we push our BS onto others, it quickly turns into judgments, which is never healthy, for either party!

“Dear Cherie, stop telling yourself that you have cancer. Instead, declare that you are completely healed! Not in the future, but RIGHT NOW!! Remember, there are no incurable diseases; only incurable people.” Of course, his assumption was that I had not been saying these things for years, when in fact, I had believed this too!

I would be rich if I had gotten a dollar for every well-meaning piece of advice I have received. Here are just some of the things people have recommended. I am not saying some of the advice hasn’t been beneficial for a healthy life, but to tell a cancer patient that what they are doing is wrong is not helpful at all.

Just the other day I had a very well-meaning friend tell me I had to cut out all dairy and meat and take a certain supplement he was taking. The supplement he took was similar to the one I was taking, and I explained to him that I was diagnosed when I was a vegetarian, and that without my whole organic milk, cheese and yogurt, I would be at least 15 pounds skinnier and look very sick indeed.

When I flew in to Denver this past Sunday, I was chatting with a man who was drilling me on all the things I might be doing “wrong”. “What are you eating?” he asked. When I told him my cancer had likely started while working at a vegan holistic resort in Arizona, he looked puzzled and instantly went on to the next question. “What were you breathing?” I told him I lived in the mountains in a village with only 800 people where the air was very clean.

I understand why people ask these questions, and I patiently let them. I am the “inconvenient truth”. They have read that when we live the way I did, you can’t possibly get cancer. Hearing that someone like me got this diagnosis makes people feel uncomfortable and scared. Remember what I said though: it is fear that ruins our happiness, more so than even a cancer diagnosis. Take it from someone who knows. We so desperately want control over our lives and cancer seems takes that from us. That is, if we let it.

Hope & Love,

Cherie Rineker, author of A Pilgrimage Without End – How Cancer Healed My Broken Heart

To purchase a signed copy, visit  Also available on Amazon and in Kindle.


Stay tuned next week for Part II of Cherie’s blog, where she shares more of her story and how cancer cured her of low self-esteem and loneliness.

Have you ever considered participating in a clinical trial? If you haven’t, you are in the majority. In fact, according to Patient Advocate Foundation,“ less than 5 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer each year will get treated through enrollment in a clinical trial.”

I find this stat extremely sad for two reasons. The first is that without participants clinical trials cannot be conducted. If treatments cannot be tested in trials, they will never be approved by the FDA, so they will not be available to cancer patients. A study by Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington found that nearly 20 percent of publicly funded clinical trials fail due to lack of participation.

The second reason I hate to hear that few people participate in clinical trials is because they may be foregoing a life-saving treatment. Especially today, researchers are testing many very promising treatments. One of those treatments may be just the one that will work for you or your loved one!

My Story

I am a big proponent of clinical trials. I believe in them. I always have. But what I didn’t really realize until I got into a trial myself is that they might save your life.

In July 2013, I was told that my stage IV lung cancer was progressing and that I basically had two choices. I could either continue with traditional chemo, this time a chemo that was less effective and made patients sicker than what I had already received, or I could go into a clinical trial.

I didn’t think long about that choice, because I had had enough of being sick from traditional chemo. I thought I was about to die anyway, so I wanted to go into a clinical trial. My reasoning was completely altruistic. I thought that my decision to become “a guinea pig” was going to help future generations. I never, ever dreamed that I would benefit personally.

Boy, was I wrong!!! My tumors responded immediately to the trial drug. And I had absolutely no reaction to the treatment. Gone were the days of vomiting and being so fatigued that I could just barely walk 10 feet. It was a win-win situation. I felt great. And my tumors were completely stable.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I had gotten into a trial for nivolumab, aka Opdivo. I remain in the trial today—more than three years later. The drug has now been approved by the FDA to treat various cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer like I have. You have probably seen television commercials or print advertisements for it.

For me, it has been a miracle drug. Even after 78 infusions, I have suffered very few side effects. The worst side effect has been that my thyroid quit working properly. I just take a little pill every day to control that. The best side effect is that my tumors have remained completely stable. My radiologist often refers to them as scars, not active tumors

Participating in the clinical trial gave my life back to me. I don’t so much have the “new normal” that so many cancer patients reference as I have my old, pre-cancer normal back.

Some Surprising Facts About Clinical Trials

Obviously, not everyone will respond the same as I did to their trial drug. Not everyone responds to traditional treatments the same, either. But, here’s the deal. If, at any time and for any reason, you decide you no longer want to participate in a trial, you tell your doctor that you don’t want to continue. You will be dropped from the trial immediately and without repercussions. Dropping out of one trial will not prevent you from getting into another trial.

If you go into a clinical trial that is testing cancer treatments, you will receive some kind of treatment. You won’t be given a placebo and left to die with no treatment at all. You may not get the test drug, but you will get some treatment. In my trial, I would have either gotten the nivolumab or docetaxel (Taxotere), a previously FDA-approved cancer treatment.

You receive a lot of care when you are in a clinical trial. I have a researcher, a nurse practitioner and my oncologist that I see every two weeks. Extensive blood tests are performed at every visit. For two years, I had CT scans every 6 weeks to ensure that my tumors were still responding to the treatment. I now have scans every three months

Since you are monitored very closely while you are in the trial, your oncologist will know very quickly if it appears the drug is not working for you. If you are not responding or develop side effects that could be life altering, you will be immediately removed from that trial.

You will generally save some money by participating in a clinical trial. In my case, the drug company pays for the cost of the trial drug. My insurance company has to pay for all care that would have been given whether or not I was in the trial—labs, scans, doctor visits, etc.—but they do not get charged for the expensive drug treatment. In addition, since my thyroid was affected by the trial drug, the trial pays for regular thyroid tests.

Every trial is a little different as to what is paid and what is not. I am fortunate that I do not have to travel outside of my city for treatment. However, some trials will pay for transportation and may even give patients a stipend for participating.

What to Expect If You Join a Clinical Trial

When you begin to look at clinical trials, you will suddenly find yourself staring at a mountain of paperwork! Most of it is written in such a way that you will be able to understand it without a problem.

It is very important to read all of the paperwork. It is the contract you are signing with the trial investigators.

Before I signed on the dotted line, I had many questions that I asked my researcher. She answered them to my satisfaction, and I committed to the study.

A small caveat that I should include here is that I have previously described a clinical trial that tests a specific drug. There are many kinds of clinical trials. I recently joined another trial that simply allows my research hospital to draw vials of my blood to go into their “Tissue Resource.” While there is no personal benefit to me to participate in this trial, researchers will use the samples to improve their understanding and treatment of disease. I always agree to this kind of study because I am very interested in helping doctors and researchers in any way I can so that they can find new ways of treating patients.

Finding Clinical Trials

If I wanted to get into a clinical trial, I would first approach my oncologist to see if he or she knows of an appropriate trial. It may be that you would have to change doctors if you join a trial. I changed medical facilities and oncologists when I entered my trial. NCI-designated facilities may be more likely to have studies available.

If you want to research available trials yourself (click on this link to use our self-serve Dory tool on Patient Power’s website), the granddaddy of all sites for finding clinical trials is As of the date that this was written, the site included information about 226,788 studies with locations all over the United States and in 191 countries. allows you to enter search terms so that you will see only those trials that are relevant to you. I entered “lung cancer” and “Dallas” and marked the box that allows me to see only those trials that are actively recruiting. Sixty-six studies met my criteria. is an interesting site that matches patients to trials. You complete information about yourself and your condition and the site will find researchers who may be looking for someone just like you! This site is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program. [Note: Patient Power’s partner, SparkCures, has created a HIPAA-compliant clinical trial search tool for Multiple Myeloma patients. Click here for more information.]

Advocacy groups for certain conditions (breast cancer, lung cancer, heart disease, etc.) often maintain clinical trial databases. It is not uncommon for the information populating these databases to come from one of the government-run databases like Please be aware that their information may not be as updated as the government sites. And, please, never pay for information about clinical trials. It is freely available without fee.

I leave you with this statement: Join a clinical trial! Who knows? The life you save may be your own!! (That’s what happened to me!)

Hating cancer…loving life,

Donna Fernandez

Owner of blogspot, MyBattleWithLungCancer

trebuchetSpoiler note – this blog is a call for action. Read on only if you are going to act!

Life is filled with serendipity. Paraphrasing Forrest Gump “…It is a box of chocolates; you never know what you are going to get…..”

Along those lines, I was most fortunate to fall into an irreverent, eclectic group of people when taking the scary step of moving to Pittsburgh to attend, and subsequently work at, Carnegie Mellon University.

Our collective predilection was to roll up our sleeves, work ridiculously hard, and then play even harder.

During that time, I developed a lifelong friendship with a uniquely gifted engineer who managed several research and teaching labs. He was simultaneously rude, crude, funny as heck, humble, and one of the classiest people I have ever met. Over the years, we laughed a lot and did some really zany things!

For example, one New Year’s Eve, my friend called at about 5 PM and said he would put my wife and me up if we attended a party at his place. Of course, we said yes and promptly drove 300 miles across two states to get there! We arrived just before midnight and along with 40 other people, danced all night to Devo, New Wave, and who knows what else! True to his word, he covered our hotel and breakfast.

My friend’s sardonic, off-beat outlook also brought new meaning to “hands-on” experiential engineering education. In a previous post, I talked about his nationally recognized “humorous engineering 101” class. One example assignment involved student teams designing and building Monty Python-themed trebuchets that could float, carry a 6’-6” 300 pound instructor, and toss a 20+ pound concrete cow really far. Of course, my friend wore a cow suit and bovine-horned helmet to play his part in boarding the craft, arming the trebuchet and launching the cow.

For all of his lunacy, however, my friend deeply touched thousands of lives through his big-hearted acts. In one instance, one of his students was going to have to drop out for lack of funds only to find their tuition bill had been mysteriously paid by an “anonymous” donor.

In another, a young student’s father unexpectedly passed away and my friend really stepped up to help her deal with that.

More recently, when I was fundraising for leukemia research, he contributed handsomely and set up an auto-pay with no end date. He called me “Superman” for riding as far as I do and said I can count on him for forever.

I could go on for hours about how he touched people, but you get the point

Late this past August, cancer took my friend away. He had recently started on a new immunotherapy, and I had real hope given the efficacy of these new approaches.

But now he is gone, just like that. Although the world is indeed poorer, my friend would want people to focus on the difference he made. True to form, he also made sure that nobody would make a fuss about his passing.

As somebody who is living with an incurable cancer, albeit slow growing, it is sobering that I could easily be the next person whose number comes up. Given its slow grind and the hope created by new therapies, it is easy to forget that CLL is still cancer and every bit as deadly.

So now for that aforementioned call for action. For all of the advances in this field, cancer continues to take people away. And equally regrettably as a consequence, many remembrances like this one continue to be painfully written as a brutal reminder that cancer plays for keeps. As my friend would do, we need to continue rolling up our sleeves, work hard to defeat cancer, and play harder wherever possible.

Please find a way to make a difference and when you do, act meaningfully on that. Even the smallest step gets us that much closer to our collective goal.

Please share your thoughts in the comments box about how you are making a difference.

Thank you for reading!

Always hope. Never quit.

–           C.J. Chris

Those of us who have loved ones who have dealt with a cancer journey are always “along for the ride.”  The emotional and physical roller coaster is never exactly the same for any two people, but the road is always bumpy, often filled with great challenges, fear, tears…the works…But those who travel it together most […]

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In December, after the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting in Orlando, Florida, I wrote a blog on Patient Power called “Impatient Patients”. I highlighted four patients who aren’t sitting around, waiting to be told about the next best treatment for their blood cancers. Instead, they are mobilizing networks of patients to push for more […]

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[Editor’s Note: Over the years Patient Power has heard from many patients and care partners. With our ongoing “Where are they now?” campaign, we get an opportunity to check in and hear updates from Patient Power’s amazing community members. This week, Jan Woolley shares with us her latest news.  For previous conversation with Jan, click on the links below.] Powerful […]

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For the third year in a row, our Patient Power team held a day-long retreat at the Willows Lodge near Seattle. We always do it in late August when the weather is beautiful, and it gives us a chance to reflect and plan. Many of us have children, so kicking off a new “school year” […]

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(or How to Financially Advocate for Yourself Without Going Totally Crazy) FRUSTRATING! I am sure most of you have had difficulties dealing not only with your insurance company, but also your doctor’s office, the hospital and their doctors. I am going to try to help you out here with what I have learned and how […]

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I’ve applied to a lot of companies over the years for a variety of jobs. You know how it goes. They tell you what type of superhero employee they’re looking for, and you tell them how your particular superhero cape comes in every size, shape and color that they happen to need. You land the […]

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