To the editor: It is with great sadness and admiration that I read former Times journalist Laurie Becklund's posthumous op-ed article on dealing with metastatic breast cancer. She was brave to tell all that the emperor had no clothes. ("As I lay dying," op-ed, Feb. 20)
As a breast cancer specialist, I am amazed how women are misled about breast cancer. They are misinformed and, in many cases, inappropriately treated by physicians who do not follow established guidelines. I feel her frustrations when I am not given the opportunity to use a drug that might work for a single patient because the "establishment" has decided based on trials, many poorly run, that the treatment won't work.
I applaud Becklund's attempt to expose this elephant in the room. My condolences to her family.
Andrea Stebel, MD, Newport Beach
To the editor: Becklund's experience of living years past a Stage 4 diagnosis was similar to my sister's. But the two women's reactions to their disease could not have been more different.
Becklund exhaustively researched her disease and relentlessly sought scientific opinion and assistance. My sister's position was that "Western science" was a racket. Medical opinions or therapies were rebuffed. "Natural" foods and cures were her constant focus.
And now, both my sister and Becklund are dead.
I was so angry with my sister while she was alive, begging her to get radiation, then chemo, then brain surgery. She refused them all, lived four years and died at home like she wanted. While the odds favor Becklund's approach, I now see my sister's point of view.
Becklund noted that each victim of metastatic cancer is a one-person clinical trial. Given that, I should have done a better job of letting my sister live her last years as she wished. I just wanted to believe that there was a way out for her.
I guess I was blinded by all those pink ribbons.
Diane Goepp, Big Bear Lake, Calif.
To the editor: I am sorry to read that Becklund died earlier this month.
However, I don't think the therapies failed her. I prefer to believe they prolonged her life.
And as for Susan G. Komen, which Becklund criticized harshly, it's because of that foundation's awareness campaign that new medical treatments are being funded and discovered. And yes, because of early detection, I am a survivor.
Judith Matz, Valley Village
To the editor: Thank you, Ms. Becklund. I shall never ever forget your words — your justified anger, your willingness to stand up and shout, your utter rejection of the label "victim."
I so wish you could read this.
TerryLynn Whitfield, San Antonio Heights
To the editor: Becklund was a reporter to the end, digging for more information, explaining clearly what she'd found and trying to help others by informing them.
Good that she had one more byline.
Cheryl Clark, Long Beach