Claude Coutier, positive against the triple negative
It’s an almost automatic question. » How are you ? » When you put it to Claude Coutier, she thinks for a few moments. » Good. I want to say that I’m fine. I decided I was fine. » Yet four years ago, in June, her world came crashing down. That day, she learns that she has breast cancer. And not just any. A very aggressive cancer, called “triple negative”.
“The triple negative is 15% of breast cancers in France”, she explains. Its particularity: attacking young women – “40% of patients are under 40” –, many of whom discover the disease during pregnancy. At the time of the diagnosis, Claude Coutier was 49 years old, two children, a demanding job. She begins “classic” treatments: chemotherapy, radiotherapy. The tumor is shrinking… but not enough. At the end of 2019, it was a recurrence, this time accompanied by metastases.
A severe prognosis
« When the triple negative becomes metastatic, the therapeutic arsenal is much more limited and the median lifespan increases to fourteen months. » It is said calmly. “When you hear this prognosis, a lot of things go through your head. You wonder if you will be able to celebrate Christmas. The future looks rather bleak…” For the first time since her diagnosis, she will feel the need for psychological support.
Thirty months later, here she is. In his misfortune, Claude Coutier was lucky. That of benefiting, in preview, from a treatment based on immunotherapy (1). “The clinical trials for this protocol had just ended, we were a few patients to have access to it on a temporary basis, pending the final validation of the trials. » Instead of galloping, her cancer stagnates. A few months later, the final results of the tests are considered unfavorable and the provision is canceled. But because the protocol shows good results on Claude, she is allowed to continue.
A collective to advance research
« That’s when I understood that we had to move research forward, so that other triplets (the name that the patients give each other, Editor’s note) can get better. » In 2020, the Collective #MobilisationTriplettes is created, which becomes at the end of 2021, the Collectif Triplettes Roses. With three objectives: to raise awareness of the disease, to advance research and to mobilize for access to innovative treatments.
Because these exist. “And it is unfair, when there is treatment, that it is in limited access. » In November 2021, the group thus obtained “early” access (i.e. before marketing authorization) of a drug, Trodelvy, until then only available in the United States. . “The Trodelvy is, on average, six months longer. It’s a lot when time is running out. » Six months is also a chance that “new treatments are emerging”continues Claude Coutier, mentioning, among other things, two promising protocols in progress, at the Curie Institute and at the Gustave-Roussy hospital in Villejuif.
Act to avoid suffering
“Claude’s strength was to transform his anguish and his anger into action.And to put this capacity for action at the service of others, to try to improve things”, emphasizes Emanuela Romano, the oncologist following her at the Institut Curie.
Of cancer, Claude Coutier says he is a “self-experience”. That she discovered herself “resources and a form of serenity. When every day is a gift, we no longer bother with things that pollute our daily lives”. She resumed her work as a computer scientist, 30%, and remotely. However, she remains lucid. “My condition is stable, but I am not cured and I still have metastases muscle and bone. » Check-ups take place every three to four months. “That’s the life of a triplet. Plan ahead three or four months. »
With this sword of Damocles on the head, how does one tame the idea of death? She knows it takes “look this possibility in the face”. Especially since she meets on a daily basis « the illness and pain of others » and that the collective is often bereaved. She « think about what she wants to convey to [ses] children » and her 17-month-old granddaughter. From there to feeling ready… « It’s still hard to accept. I haven’t gone all the way yet.There may still be a part of denial in me. But if I know the fragility of my situation, I also know that nothing is written. Let medicine progress. I like to believe that anything is possible. »
His inspiration – Faces and landscapes
“Since the creation of the Collective, I have met wonderful people in fields that were previously far from me: doctors, media, associations, politicians, institutions and of course patients (9,000 women are affected each year). I discover committed and passionate people. Each in their own way, they are examples and command a lot of respect. At the same time, I also need more intimate moments, essential to recharge my batteries and take a step back. So I’m going to walk, admire the shape of the clouds, a field of wheat, a kingfisher… Everything that surrounds me. »