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Without clinical trials, it would be a safe bet to say I may not have survived stage III rectal cancer 13 years ago. I certainly would be different today. We often forget every drug and medical device that is available to patients today is thanks to those who were part of the trial that got them approved. The FDA approval process is extremely thorough and rigorous - every drug and device must prove safety, benefit and effectiveness for patients. Without clinical trials, no drug - no matter how promising in the lab - can become available to the thousands of cancer patients whose lives are literally depending on new treatments.

After I was diagnosed, I went through radiation and chemo prior to surgery. The radiation machine, 5FU and pump all had to be tested on someone through clinical trials. I had surgery and a temporary ostomy. Someone also had to be first for those procedures. Afterwards I had six months of 5FU. That went through clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness as well as how long to give it. The reason I am here today, and have been able to see both my daughters get into college (pictured), is thanks the people who went through those clinical trials.

Without clinical trials, I might have died from the cancer, or the pulmonary embolism or the pneumonia. While I was in treatment, I tried to enroll in a clinical trial back then. Why? I wanted to make sure I was getting the best care possible. I had a wife and two daughters I didn’t want to let down. Clinical trials require you to get standard of care plus the new treatment or standard of care and a placebo. Either way, you are getting the best approved treatment. Bruce Cockburn has a quote I like: “You’ve got to kick at the darkness until it bleeds daylight.” I’ve always thought it is important to try and help other people. Participating in a clinical trial seemed like a good way to do this. Even if it didn’t help me, it would help others after me and pay it forward. (Plus clinical trials are science, and science is cool.) Unfortunately, my oncologist was not interested.

When I asked him about clinical trials, he said there weren’t any, without even checking. Looking back now, at the time they were testing Folfox on stage III’s back then. I only received 5FU. Callers to the Colon Cancer Alliance Helpline (877) 422-2030 tell me: “My doctor says he’ll tell me when I need one.” We always associate clinical trials with chemotherapy. We see them as the last hope for the desperate. They aren’t. All new drugs and procedures must go through clinical trials.  What if they are testing a drug to prevent mouth sores or neuropathy?  

If you are interested in clinical trials, you need to look for them yourself. That is why the Colon Cancer Alliance developed their new Clinical Trials Finder. This tool allows you to find any clinical trials that interest you - and get matched based on your location, stage, biomarker and more. You can then discuss them with your oncologist to decide if it is the right trial for you. Pay it forward. Try a trial.

Crawford Clay was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer 10 years ago when he was 43. Crawford’s family has a long history of colon cancer. He and his father were diagnosed with the disease within the same week. Crawford has a B.A. in Psychology and a M.Div. Crawford has a variety of professional experience including being a youth pastor and working in sales and marketing. Currently, he is the Patient Advocacy Coordinator for the Colon Cancer Alliance. Crawford and his wife live in Stafford, Virginia with two teenager daughters and two chocolate labs. 


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