Faye Belvin: Living a Healthy Life, Thanks to a Phase I Clinical Trial
In November 2019, Faye Belvin, 58, of Jacksonville, Florida, was diagnosed with breast cancer and immediately began treatment which included radiation therapy. She was able to continue her treatments when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Faye, who is a legal assistant at a law firm and comes from a close-knit family, experienced the impact of the pandemic like everyone else.
“It pretty much affected me just like it affected everybody. I was basically home, I had to social distance, and wear a mask,” she said. “The most I did was get in my car if I felt like it and take a drive.”
As her radiation therapy regimen was ending in late 2020, Faye began to experience a pain in her side. Then, at her regular oncology checkup, a blood test showed a tumor marker. She was referred to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for follow-up tests and care.
In February 2021, after a series of scans and biopsies, Faye was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
The next month, she began chemotherapy for that cancer.
Throughout her experience with cancer, Faye has felt deeply grateful. She was surrounded by a loving family that made it easier for her to deal with common barriers, such as traveling for medical appointments, that many other patients face when receiving cancer care.
“I know that a lot of people have challenges, but my experience is different. I had my family surrounding me. And they were there from day one,” she said. “I never drove. My sisters took me back and forth to the doctor for all of my appointments and treatments. They were there with me the whole time.”
And Faye had an outstanding cancer care team, led by Gerardo Colon-Otero, MD.
“He is so personable. He’s a great doctor,” Faye said. “He talked about everything in layman’s terms, so I never had a problem understanding what was going on. From the beginning, we had a great relationship. I had confidence that what he said was good for me, and I would just follow his advice. It was a good experience.”
Following several rounds of chemotherapy and a surgery, Faye decided to participate in a phase I clinical trial upon Dr. Colon-Otero’s recommendation. The study was evaluating a combination of two molecularly targeted anticancer therapeutics, trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu) and olaparib (Lynparza).
The first time she received the combination therapy, she said it was rough, but her team quickly adjusted the
dosage, and it has been easier for her. Faye is still receiving the combination therapy and is doing well. The most common side effect she experiences is nausea.
As a person of faith, Faye is deeply grateful for the strength her beliefs have given her during both cancer diagnoses and various treatments. That faith in God, she said, has helped her remain steadfast through the ups and downs.
She is also very thankful for her care team and for the clinical trial.
“I’m living healthy. The clinical trial is working. I feel better now than I felt in the last two years,” she said.
Faye’s experience has made her a huge believer in clinical trials.
“My message to the doctors and researchers is that, if you can, have a clinical trial available for your patients. My message to other patients is, don’t be apprehensive about participating in a clinical trial. It has definitely proven
to be a blessing for me,” Faye said. “And my message to policy makers is that clinical trials work. So, I would encourage them to fund clinical trials.”
Faye has had a passion for helping children with cancer. That passion, combined with her own experiences with the disease, has led Faye to seriously consider becoming a patient advocate for children with cancer.