Connie Harrington: "I wanted to be as aggressive as possible."

Connie Harrington: "I wanted to be as aggressive as possible."(CONNIE HARRINGTON)It was Connie Harrington's doctor who first presented her with the idea of joining a breast cancer drug trial at the hospital where he was affiliated. "My oncologist is heavily into clinical trials, and he told me, 'This is your choice—if you choose not to do it, you'll still get the best care we can offer,' " says Harrington, a 40-year-old Aurora, Ill., mother of two, who was diagnosed with stage IIIA invasive lobular carcinoma in March 2007.

Harrington's trial was for high-risk women—she was eligible because her tumor was so large. "It was presented to me as an aggressive approach, and I want to be as aggressive as possible," she explains. The trial had four arms, each testing different chemotherapy dosing schedules to see how well the drugs prevented recurrence; she got 15 weeks of once-weekly doses of the long-used chemo drug Adriamycin with daily pills of Cytoxan, then later took Taxol every other week for 12 weeks.

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Harrington says her experience was a good one, despite having to endure side effects such as throat sores and constipation from the Adriamycin and bone and joint pain from the Taxol. She liked the fact that the trial involved standard cancer drugs. "If it was a totally new drug, I would've [been afraid], but the fact that these were known drugs made me feel a bit better."

Clinical trial participants also sometimes benefit from extra attention, and that was Harrington's experience. "I had my own clinical trial nurse that was always available for me," she says. "If I had any questions or bad side effects, I could call her directly rather than call the nurse line and get whoever answered."

Meantime, she liked being part of the science: "It feels good to possibly be helping women in the future. Also, I feel like I can say to myself that I did everything I could to treat this."