In some ways, my father was ahead of his time. An engineer, aviator, inventor, WWII vet, and medical doctor (Ok, he was an overachiever), Dad wanted all of his children, regardless of gender identity, to have a good science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education because he believed it would be essential for thriving in the future economic and political landscape. “Education is something that no one can take away from you,” he told me more than once.
Dad (and Mom too) fought school policy to make sure I was allowed to take science instead of being forced to take Home Economics with the other girls. Dad taught me how to use a slide rule, and when my math class did not cover essential concepts–like using π to calculate the area of a circle–he taught me himself (though at the time I would have much rather gone to bed). He advocated so that I and some other advanced students could take algebra and chemistry a year early, which allowed us to cram all the available STEM classes into four high school years. And he made sure that I could afford to attend my choice of colleges that focused on science and engineering.
In his sparse free time (he was a practicing family doctor while working as chief engineer at his father’s company on the side), he showed me how an oscilloscope could analyze an electronic circuit, taught me how to find the constellations using a telescope, took me and a classmate out in his boat to collect plankton for a science project, and talked to my physiology class about medicine.
True, he missed most every ball game, skipped a lot of music concerts, and often wasn’t home to read to me (thankfully Mom picked up the slack). True, I had issues with his insistence on perfection and lack of positive feedback. Still, I am the happy, inquisitive science geek I am today in large part because my father made sure my scientific curiosity and abilities were nurtured.
So, thanks, Dad, for believing in me. Despite your humanity and parenting missteps, you made a positive difference in my life. I wish 60-year-old me could talk to you face to face and make sure you knew how much I loved you–and love you still–and reassure you that I know how much you did for me.
To all who have been, will be, or wished they were fathers; who stand in as a loving father figure; or who had or wished they had a good father ….
may you spend Father’s Day remembering or making happy memories.
I’m excited to be one of the handful of patients speaking in a public forum tomorrow evening at The Broad Institute in Boston, Massachusetts (well, technically, Cambridge). We’ll be sharing our “Lessons for Creating Patient‐Researcher Partnerships to Accelerate Biomedical Progress.” I get to talk about the founding of the ROS1ders and the Global ROS1 Initiative.
A host of engaged patients, cancer researchers, and other healthcare types, among them the American Society for Clinical Oncology and the Biden Cancer Initiative (which grew out of the Cancer Moonshot) will be there. This could be the start of something BIG. At a minimum, it will spontaneously generate a HUGE group hug with advocate friends old and new.
Coincidentally, we’ll be staying at a hotel just a few blocks from my old MIT dorm during MIT Reunion Weekend. I’ll be too late for reunion festivities–attending the ASCO Annual Meeting last week took priority. Still, I’ll wander over on my knee scooter (still healing after foot surgery) in the 90º-plus heat. I ought to be able to reflect on my crazy undergrad days on Third East in the East Campus dormitory for at least five minutes before seeking refuge inside an air-conditioned building. Next year I plan to indulge in my 40th MIT Reunion–I didn’t expect to live long enough to see it, and I’m going to take full advantage of the the opportunity!
Thanks to cancer clinical trials, engaged patients, and a devoted spouse, I have lived to see my silver wedding anniversary.
I don’t know which is more amazing – that I’ve lived six years beyond a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer (and currently have no evidence disease), or that two strong-willed, opinionated engineers have shared a house for 25 years without killing each other. I think the second might be a rarer occurrence.
My cancer diagnosis definitely put a strain on our marriage, and I know Gerry struggled at times as he watched me experience the discomforts, losses, dashed hopes, and side effects of living with lung cancer as a chronic illness. Oddly, cancer has also strengthened our marriage. It has caused both of us to focus more on what’s really important, to be more tolerant of each other’s idiosyncrasies (we got a lot), and to find more ways to spend time together.
My husband has gradually become more involved in supporting my patient advocacy work. He’s met people that I have helped, and he can see the purpose and meaning it gives me. He said he wanted to help me have that in my life. (sniff sniff) Appropriately, hubby and I going to celebrate our 25th anniversary at the ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago this weekend. He’ll be escorting me to events since I’ll still using a knee scooter after foot surgery (isn’t he sweet?). We’re hoping he’ll be able to watch me give my first-ever ASCO presentation, despite having only a guest badge.
So, happy anniversary, Gerry. Thanks for sticking with me for better or worse. Love you!
P.S. I’m not a TOTAL nerd. We will also be celebrating our anniversary with a Mediterranean cruise in the fall. See, there are really cool historical sites in Rome, Athens, and Israel …
Today the National Cancer Institute published this blog about the ROS1ders on the Center for Cancer Genomics “Insights and Innovations” blog. The Global ROS1 Initiative is underway! I’m glad I was able to help share our story.
ROS1+ Cancer Patients Partner to Increase Research
In May 2015, I met four friends in a bar near Washington, D.C., to talk about not dying of cancer.
This conversation planted a seed that has grown into The Global ROS1 Initiative, a patient-researcher partnership that is redefining research into ROS1-positive (ROS1+) cancer. The Initiative includes a group of over 150 patients in 19 countries; two patient-focused foundations, Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and Addario Lung Cancer Medical Institute (ALCMI); academic cancer researchers; and industry. The Initiative includes more than twice the number of patients enrolled in any ROS1 clinical trial thus far.
How did this happen? Let’s return to the bar. Read More …
I was eating a typical breakfast this morning, at our typical time, in the typical place, when I realized today was not typical. Today is my six-year cancerversary.
Took me a moment to digest that thought.
Considering how shocked I was to hear my diagnosis of advanced lung cancer on May 10, 2011, I’m surprised this day seems typical. Perhaps I shouldn’t be. I’ve been living with No Evidence of Disease for 52 months and counting (thanks to a clinical trial, medical research, and other patients), and my scans only happen twice a year. I might almost ignore the fact that I’m still a cancer patient in active treatment if not for the persistent side effects of previous treatment, daily medication ritual (seven different meds for cancer and side effects), and occasional bouts of pneumonia and coughing.
My time with lung cancer has been eased by the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way in the lung cancer community. Some of my favorite experiences are watching them discover how to combine their passion for changing lung cancer outcomes with their unique skills and interests to meet a need. Whatever skills they may value and enjoy, they can use them to find a purpose that gives meaning beyond a lung cancer diagnosis. Maybe it’s making memories with family and friends, creating a blog or piece of art, supporting newly-diagnosed patients and their caregivers in person or online, telling their lung cancer story in public, volunteering for a lung cancer advocacy organization, writing to lawmakers, conducting a fundraiser, or serving as a research patient advocate. The needs in the lung cancer community are huge, and there are many ways to make a difference. A caring act need not be global to be great. And the funny thing is, when you’re caring for others, one’s own issues seem smaller and more manageable.
Since my diagnosis, I’ve gone through this discovery process. I found a way to combine skills I enjoy using (for me, it’s learning and communicating about science) with my passion to improve lung cancer outcomes for myself and others. I’m making a difference in the world doing something that I love.
My evolution happened in phases, punctuated by seemingly random events that invited me into the next phase:
- Cancer Patient (May 2011)– I did what the doctor told me.
(I moved to the next phase when my cancer became metastatic and I realized no one knew how to cure me. I had to be my own advocate.)
- Engaged Patient (October 2011)– I learned about my disease from online forums and other patients, actively discussed treatment options with my medical team, and shared my experience with other patients.
(I moved to the next phase as I realized that sharing my lung cancer experiences was useful to others, and that perhaps I could do more.)
- Patient Advocate (April 2012)– I shared my story and patient perspective in increasingly more public venues, and began to work with advocacy groups.
(I moved to the next phase as I realized I had accumulated more knowledge about treating lung cancer than some doctors I encountered.)
- Expert Patient (June 2013?)– I read new lung cancer research, discussed it with knowledgeable medical experts, and shared what I’d learned with other patients and carers.
(I moved to the next phase as I discovered opportunities for sharing my story, knowledge and skills with healthcare, legislative, and policy making professionals through conferences, advocacy organizations, and online portals.)
- Patient Activist (October 2013)– I began actively pushing for changes in funding, public policy, and the healthcare system regarding lung cancer.
(I moved to the next phase as I made contacts within the broader lung cancer community and saw opportunities for collaborations.)
- Research Partner and Activist (September 2015)–I now work with patients, caregivers, clinicians, researchers, pharma, advocacy groups and policy makers to improve lung cancer outcomes, and help other patients and caregivers in their explorations of advocacy.
As I’ve evolved, I’ve found purpose. This purpose gives me focus, and helps me think myself as something more than just a lung cancer patient. I get up most days knowing I have something useful to do, no matter how I feel physically.
I would not say cancer gifted me with this purpose. The challenges of cancer only forced me to reassess what matters most by confronting me with a foreshortened lifespan and loss of abilities. We all must deal with some level of adversity in life. It’s how we handle that adversity that defines us. I truly believe the Native American proverb: “The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears.”
I’m not just surviving with cancer, I’m living. I’m fulfilling a purpose, for as long as I can, however long I may have.
Here’s to finding the meaning.
This is a reblog of a post I wrote on lcsmchat.com.
Lung cancer is a complicated disease. Diagnosing and treating complex cases can require skills that cross a variety of medical specialties. Larger medical centers and hospitals may decide to discuss complex cases in tumor boards that include physicians that represent a variety of medical specialties.
Our May 4, 2017, #LCSM Chat (at 8pm Eastern, 5pm Pacific) will focus on defining what a multidisciplinary tumor board (MTB) does, who is involved, and why MTB are important in the treatment of lung cancer.
The National Cancer Institute defines a tumor board review as:
A treatment planning approach in which a number of doctors who are experts in different specialties (disciplines) review and discuss the medical condition and treatment options of a patient. In cancer treatment, a tumor board review may include that of a medical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with drugs), a surgical oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with surgery), and a radiation oncologist (who provides cancer treatment with radiation). Also called multidisciplinary opinion.
Some of the medical doctors with specialized training that might participate in an MTB are:
- Medical Oncologist: specializes in diagnosing cancer and treating it with medicines
- Pathologist: specializes in identifying diseases and conditions by studying abnormal cells and tissues.
- Pulmonologist: specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases.
- Radiation Oncologist: specializes in treating cancer with ionizing radiation
- Radiologist: specializes in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, and positron emission tomography (PET)
- Thoracic surgeon: specializes in the surgical diagnosis, staging and treatment of cancer in the thorax (chest)
Moderator @JFreemanDaily will lead our discussion using the following questions:
- T1: What does a multidisciplinary tumor board (MTB) do? Why is it important in #lungcancer treatment?
- T2: What types of #lungcancer cases can benefit by MTB review?
- T3: Who should be involved in an MTB? What medical specialties are usually represented?
- T4: How often does an MTB reach a consensus about diagnosis and treatment recommendations in #lungcancer?
- T5: What can patients do if their hospital does not have an MTB? What is the role of telemedicine?
Please join us for this valuable discussion. If you’re new to tweet chats, this primer will help.