Archive for October, 2012

Brian Kissinger is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer!

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

My name is Brian Kissinger. In February of 2010, I was unbelievably diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I had come down with a bad case of pneumonia, and rushed to the hospital. I was terrified because my son, Braydon was only a few months old, and I didn’t want to get him sick too. After suffering from a constant cough for over a year, that was diagnosed as asthma, I wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital. The CT tech, and the doctor on call, chased me down as I was leaving. They wanted to run some more tests. The tech tried to calm me with “I’m sure it’s nothing,” but the look on the doctor’s face said otherwise. After a battery of tests and procedures, my doctor called and apologized, that he had to tell me, I had cancer. I had a rare type of Lung Cancer, and it’s stage IV. At 33, healthy and someone who had never smoked, I was so shocked, I didn’t even understand what he was telling me. I had to have him spell the type of cancer four times, I couldn’t even seem to write it down correctly.

That is where the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation comes in. Through my family, I found another family, and a foundation who is entirely dedicated to fighting lung cancer. Bonnie, a eight year survivor, of lung cancer, works tirelessly to educate patients, and eradicate lung cancer. They have helped me confirm my choices of doctors, and even confirm treatments I have been prescribed.

Now, I am approaching three years, since my diagnosis, and I am feeling great. I have been in treatment for almost all of those three years. I am on my third line of treatment. I take a little pill two times a day. This pill was not even available as an option at the time of my diagnosis. Since then, this pill, Afinitor, has replaced my chemo infusions and kept me stable for a year and a half. All of this, with little to no side effects.

I have an entirely different mindset now. Cancer has changed every aspect of my life, not in a lot of ways you might think, though. I am very aware of how great my life is now. There are incredible things, happening everyday all around you. You just have to slow down and take a look for them.

I am doing everything I possibly can to beat lung cancer. So MY family and friends never have to fight this disease. So YOUR family and friends never have to fight this disease. It is important to me to fight to support other patients, in the fight of their lives. I fight in memory of some of the most incredible people I have ever met. I fight to make everyone very aware that ANYONE WHO BREATHES, can get lung cancer.

Brian Kissinger is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer! from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

The Gaeta Family is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

A life long non-smoker, Joan Gaeta was a devoted wife, teacher, and mother of five. Diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2004, she fought a three and a half year battle before succumbing in July of 2007.

Reflections on her LIFE from her children….

“OUR FAMLY IS A CIRCLE OF STRENGTH AND LOVE. WITH EVERY BIRTH AND EVERY MARRIAGE, THE CIRCLE GROWS. EVERY JOY SHARED ADDS MORE LOVE. EVERY CRISIS FACED TOGETHER MAKES THE CIRCLE STRONGER.”  This passage has been on the wall in the Gaeta home for many years now; but it was never been as poignant as it was during and after mom’s battle with lung cancer.

The more full and complete a life is, the harder it is to memorialize. A rich life filled with love, commitment, and service to others is very difficult to honor with a few simple words. Mom’s life touched countless people in a many different and unexpected ways. Her life means different things to different people. The only common denominator in mom’s life … is love.

We, her children, will do our best now to properly honor our mother, Joan Marie Gaeta. Those who knew her know what a full, rich, and complete life our mother led. The diversity of people that were at her funeral Mass was telling – friends and family gathered together from across many different places and times in mom’s life. This fact alone speaks volumes. She wore many hats; had many roles. Daughter. Sister. Wife. Mother. We would like to share our view of mom and her life; perhaps allowing our memories to bring new perspective to yours.

“OUR FAMILY IS A CIRCLE OF STRENGTH AND LOVE.” Mom deeply understood love to mean sacrifice and selflessness. As Catholic Christians, we see this fact very clearly in the Cross. Mom lived it. Every mother knows of this love: Having children demands that you put their needs ahead of your own; constantly. Mom was no different. As the mother of five and a full-time homemaker, everything she did was geared toward the well-being of her husband and her children. For mom, it did not end there. She was only 32 years old when her in-laws moved into her home. 32 years old. For the next 17 years, she sacrificed a portion of her marriage with dad. For 17 years, she took on this added responsibility and stress…all for the love of others – her husband, of course; but also her in-laws, because they too were children of God and it simply was the right thing to do.

It wasn’t too long after her in-laws passed that mom took on the responsibility of caring for her own aging mother. Although Nanny was in an assisted living home, mom simply did not feel her mother was getting the quality of care that only family could provide. For six years, mom visited Nanny almost daily – dressing her, doing her laundry, and generally making sure that her mother’s last days were spent in dignity and with respect. This ended only after mom’s diagnosis with cancer.

Mom’s love to her family was much more than this and was evident in innumerable ways to us kids, in both small and large ways. I use the term “love to her family” rather than “love of her family” on purpose. To Mom, love is not just an emotion; it is not just a feeling. Love is an action. A verb. Mom’s love to her children and to her husband was always a verb. An action. Tangible actions, like waking her children with a gentle stroke on the arm accompanied by a beautiful voice singing of, “Rise and shine! Give God the glory, glory!” Or, she’d tuck you in tight and lay in bed with you for a bit, bemoaning the need to get up for school every bit as much as you were. Tangible actions, like every unsung thing she did around the house to keep it running smoothly. Cooking. Cleaning. Laundry. Errands. (Cooking? Best Eggplant Parmesan in the world.) Things we didn’t notice at the time; but, if not done, would send our lives into chaos. Tangible actions like providing a stable and loving home. Tangible actions like her love to our father that led her to cook for over 50 people each and every year, hosting parties for Dad’s management team at GE Capital.

But much, if not most, of Mom’s love to her family came in intangible ways. Lasting examples of service to others and, quite simply, doing the right thing. Some examples:


- Serving the rural poor through her work with the Glenmary Home Missions.

- Tutoring unwed pregnant teenagers at the Nazareth House.

- Distributing clothes and food with St. Joseph’s community outreach program.

- Teaching English and basic monetary skills to a Laotian immigrant family.

- Taking people into our home, who had been rejected by others, when they needed a place to stay.

- And much more – volunteering her time and talent to anyone who needed it.

“DOING THE RIGHT THING.” This did not just apply to large acts of charity; but, in the little things that fill in the everyday moments we call “life”. We used to tease Mom about her strict adherence to “rules”. Mom never broke the rules or took short-cuts to anything. It was a running family joke. Mom never compromised her ethics or principles, regardless of the circumstances. This would sometimes annoy us, or cramp our style. But it was always “the right thing to do”, and we kids are all better people for it.

Mom’s selflessness did not stop with her family. Her constant acts of putting other people’s feelings above her own extended to everyone in her life – friends, neighbors, and strangers alike.

Those who knew her, knew very well of mom’s intense fear of animals – particularly dogs. They knew the drill: when mom would visit their house, they would have to be sure that the coast was clear of all “pooches.” It was almost a ritual. As our sister Tina would say, “Mommy was afraid of dogs the way most of us are afraid of sharks.” But even mom’s fear of dogs could be used to illustrate her intense concern for others. Many years ago, mom was outside talking with a neighbor while Tina was waiting for her in the car. As they were talking, our neighbor’s dog jumped up and bit mom on the leg. Not wanting to embarrass her neighbor, mom never flinched…and carried on with the conversation as if nothing happened. Our neighbor never knew that mom had been bitten. Only after my mother got into the car did she reveal the pain she was in. In fact, my mom’s leg was bleeding through her jeans. A trivial anecdote on the surface; but, it illustrates mom’s priorities: others first, herself second.

Mom’s selfless character was evident even in her dying days. She was always thinking of others and never wanted anyone to feel bad or embarrassed. Although constantly fatigued and in pain, she felt bad that others felt bad for her. When people would come to visit her, she always wanted them to feel comfortable – not to be afraid for her or too upset. It would take literally all the energy she could muster to “put on a happy face”. Somehow, she could always manage to turn the conversation away from herself and towards the other person. The visit would inevitably be about how they were doing and what was going on in their lives, not focusing on my mom’s condition. No sooner would they be out the door then mom would be fast asleep…exhausted. She truly gave the last bit of her energy in life making those around her feel better.

“EVERY JOY SHARED ADDS MORE LOVE.” Mom was a woman full of joy and passion. Mom was our “Dancing Queen”. She loved to dance and often wished she had been born with “dancers’ legs”. We have absolutely no doubt in our minds that she is dancing in Heaven right now. She never looked more alive than when she and dad were dancing together at a party….a family get-together…. spontaneously on the beach…out on the deck…..or just in the kitchen. (Although … that on-all-fours rendition from the musical Cat’s was a little over the top!) So great was their dancing that they often “stole the show” at weddings. When they threw our brother a high school graduation party, they astonished Rick’s friends by taking over the dance floor – something that is still talked about to this day. When driving in a car with the radio on, mom was known to break out into a rhythm and hand motions….much to our brother Joe’s embarrassment as this was often done while driving in carpool. When the family would make our yearly trip to the beach, you could spot the lead car in our caravan by all the grooving and hand-motions coming from my parents’ car.

Those who know the Gaetas know that, as Italians, we love our food….and we love our drink. Mom was no different. The best times at our house are when we are all home for a holiday or any other party. Music playing….the smell of good food cooking….and Mom enjoying the perfect Martini. No one enjoyed a Martini like mom. In fact, it was very important that the cooking was complete – or at least that one of her daughters was on hand to help – before she indulged. Our sister Theresa will tell you that this is how she learned to cook like mom. Cooking is important, but enjoying a Martini and dancing? Now that is the stuff of life. “Mom’s got her Martini?….Is the food done yet?”

But, as much as Mom was passionate about dancing, cooking, or Martinis – nothing topped the passion of the love affair my parents shared for over 50 years. They were truly “one”. It is easy to speak in lofty terms about the depth of Mom and Dad’s love; their teamwork, their incredibly deep and lasting bond. We could write volumes about the example they set for us children and how their life together was built on something more. But, a simple anecdote best shows the passion that never left them. Even with five kids and the drudgery of everyday life, it was never unusual to see my parents…well…making out in the kitchen. They were not bashful about displaying their love in front of their kids – or anybody else who happened to be present. One day, when our brother Joe was five or six years old, he was leading a friend through the kitchen up to his room as they passed my parents in a deep and passionate kiss. Noticing the look of shock on his friend’s face, Joe dismissed it, saying, “Oh, don’t mind them…they’re married.”

“EVERY CRISIS FACED TOGETHER MAKES THE CIRCLE STRONGER.”  Perhaps mom’s most significant gift of love to her husband and children was given to us over these past three and a half years. Little by little, day by day, as this disease slowly overtook her, she could no longer care for others the way she used to. We now had to care for her. For nearly 50 years she gave. Cooking, cleaning, laundry and doing all the things that go unsung. How she hated to not be able to do such things for herself and for dad any longer. It wasn’t until mom’s illness that we watched our father learn to do these things. But it was so much more than that. He finally was able to care for mom in her time of need, as she had cared for him all those years. She who cared lovingly for her children, her husband, her mother and friends, could no longer care for herself. In her dying days she gave us the greatest gift of love, she let us love her and care for her in the most intimate of ways… up her dignity and literally putting her life in our hands.

In the end, though she was helpless and couldn’t even talk, she was teaching us to love as Jesus loved. And that’s how we become stronger.

All this is echoed in some of mom’s last words as told to Deacon Larry Casey:

“It has been a wonderful journey with many loving stops along the way:

…the care, support, and nurturing I received for many years from parents and grandparents.

…the love and devotion given to me by this terrific man I have been married to for 47 years.

…the joy of giving birth to our five children and watching them grow and mature into men and women that any parent would be proud to call their own.

…the pleasure of hearing the silence of our home broken by laughter, hugs, and conversation that can only come from visiting grandchildren.”

The reality is that pain and suffering are a part of all of our lives while here on this Earth. Nowhere in the Bible does God promise any of us total happiness. What He did promise was life eternal for those who endure their hardships with faith, hope, love, and courage.”

The Gaetas are Changing the Face of Lung Cancer from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Gerard Silvestri, MD, MS — MUSC

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Dr. Silvestri is a Professor of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Silvestri completed his undergraduate education at Fairleigh Dickinson University, his medical degree at St. Georges University, a residency in internal medicine at the hospital of St. Raphaels/Yale University School of medicine and fellowship training at Dartmouth. He has an advanced degree in health services research, also from Dartmouth. He is a lung cancer and interventional pulmonologist. He is involved in every aspect of lung cancer care including screening, diagnosis, staging, treatment and palliation. Dr. Silvestri is a writer and editor of the ACCP lung cancer guidelines. He is the immediate past chair of the Thoracic Oncology network of the ACCP and the president of the American Association of Bronchology. Dr. Silvestri has authored over 100 scientific articles, book chapters and editorials. He has served on study sections at both the National Institute of Health and NCI pertaining to lung cancer and is on the data safety monitoring board of the national screening trial for Prostate, Lung, Colon and Ovarian Cancer (PLCO). He is associate editor of the journal Thorax. Dr. Silvestri is a grant funded researcher with a program project grant in screening for lung cancer with a program project grant in screening for lung cancer.

Gerard Silvestri, MD, MS —

Joseph (Joey) Lerner is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Everyone keeps telling me “There are no words.” Even I didn’t think I could find any worthy enough. Then, I imagined Joey’s courage and further developed my own. If I could just have half of his, I knew I could collect my thoughts. I closed my eyes and felt him instantly after he passed. His presence lifted my own. Fearless, I listened to my heart and nothing else. I immediately began to write…

Years ago, Joey once wrote on his painting, “Boxers and artists are a lot alike. Artists paint pictures with paint like a boxer throws punches.” Even then, Joey knew he was a fighter.

He was quiet. Some call it shy. We call it extraordinary. A man of few words but with a heart of verses. His silence was filled with pure goodness. And when he spoke, it was profound. We all listened in our own individual way. A family that heard his courageous fight. Together, we watched him- hiding his won struggle to prevent our own from overcoming us. We immersed ourselves in his grace, selflessness, strength, and deep love for us. He was relentless. And as he fought, our already strong family found a new meaning. The definition of family surpassed any human dictionary. W defined life, love, and unity through Joey. Without him saying a word, he taught us how to truly live- how to find strength when you think you have absolutely nothing left, how to truly be selfless, how to let petty differences disappear in the midst of what is important, and how to see someone’s true soul regardless of their physical presence.

I have watched my immediate family through all of this. And finally towards the end, I learned to be still.  To sit and observe. I started to understand even more and recognized so many blessings. The bigger picture finally appeared, and my eyes became wide open.

I saw my brother, Mark,  pour every ounce of himself into our brother. Silently, I thanked him for helping keep it the three of us because I always had two older brothers. I was amazed by his devotion and promise to protect Joey. Selflessly, he stood by Joey’s side through everything. He forgot himself completely, made Joey feel as if even the worst situation was “normal”, and I immediately recognized the father Mark will be someday. Their bond was priceless. As our favorite nurse at MD Anderson always said, “Mark is your brother’s keeper.”

Then, I watched my mother. Everyday, she became even more of his best friend. Her strength humbled me even when she thought she didn’t have any. Her endless sacrifice and comfort was immeasurable. She provided him more love and support than any mother could possibly give. Joey adored her and just felt “good” when she was around. Her presence was more potent than any medicine, and I know he lived for her as much as himself. She was angelic at his side at every moment, and I can only hope I can some day be half of the mother she is.

I also watched my father. He was present at all times. If anyone needed him, he was there with loyalty, support, and love. Holding his own tears, he stood before a family so afraid with his head held high. He wanted everyone to fell that we were in good hands as his own nervously shook.

I watched my Great Aunt Lucy miss Joey’s presence. At 96, she needed him. Even when she couldn’t speak, I saw her spirit weaken without him. They impacted each other’s lives simultaneously and shared a rare connection. His gracious, generous, and uplifting way with Lucy added years to her life, and I am forever grateful for this.

I also watched my sister-in-law, Sara, provide support and understanding wherever she felt appropriate. I watched her own uncertainty of what to do and sympathized silently. She remained present and understanding of her husband’s desire to protect his brother and family.

And lastly, I watched myself. I felt my growth. I saw myself remain still in the midst of chaos, speak from the heart, understand the true meaning of peace, and selflessly let go when it’s time because I recognized new beginnings. I found my role- to understand Joey and his needs for comfort for himself and my family. I finally listened to what he had endured and what he desired, and I embraced our spoken and unspoken connection. My moments with him have changed my life, made me fearless, and given me new beliefs and meanings of what is important.

Even as Joey lay in bed and couldn’t paint, he created a masterpiece. He painted our picture. My family dripped like the most illuminating colors imagined. Each of us a different shade! In silence, I sat with him and was so thankful that I took the time to watch this artist at work.

A hospital was no place for a soul like his. He is an angel- a son, a brother, a friend, a fighter, an artist. Humble in his talent, gracious with his heart, wealthy with his soul, wise in his silence, and authentic in his being. He lived as he painted, inspired as he fought, and loved with each stroke in his own special way. He created a masterpiece. He created a family. We were his canvas, yet he is the most extraordinary color we will ever see- a perfect hue!



Lauren B. Lerner

Mary Anne Rios is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Mary Anne Rios, diagnosed in August 2010 with incurable Stage 3B Lung Cancer was a shock to me, and my family. I am a non-smoker. At that time we had only heard of smokers being diagnosed with lung cancer. We now know that if you have lungs you could be diagnosed with lung cancer. Although there are no pre-screening for early diagnosis for non smokers there are six important symptoms.
Here are the six symptoms printed in the October issue of Ladies Home Journal this past month. I had them all and was misdiagnosed by 3 doctors:

- A cough that lasts longer than three weeks, or any cough with blood
- Losing weight without trying
- Shortness of breath, wheezing, hoarseness
- Persistent chest, back or shoulder pain
- Unusual, ongoing fatigue
- Recurring respiratory infections – colds, bronchitis, pneumonia
for more details on symptoms please visit

On October 4th, 2010 I asked my doctor why wasn’t’ there awareness for lung cancer as there was for breast cancer he turned the question to me. We agreed that due to the stigma of smoking, no celebrity spokesperson, and the political aspect lung cancer was left in the shadows.

But I was not going to give up. I wanted bracelets so I had my own made stating “Lung Cancer Sucks….And Then You Live” And because of the prayers, support, help with awareness and a new targeted treatment…. I could one of the 15% that survives.

On that same day I found Lung Cancer Alliance, and the organization was hosting vigils to raise awareness. I couldn’t wait to go. There was one in San Diego, perfect I thought I could see my niece. But then I saw the link to host your own…only a month away my family, friends, LHS colleagues, students (current & former) supported me in this effort and we had a successful event.

I have had over 80+ various chemo cocktail treatments, 50- radiation treatments to my chest (3 different areas), whole brain radiation, and spine radiation. I am currently on the new targeted treatment Tarceva, a pill taken daily, and a monthly shot called Xgeva for the cancer in my bones/bone marrow.

My diagnosis:
Non small cell Lung Cancer Adenocarcinoma metastasized to 3 brain tumors
Supraclavicular adenopathy
Secondary Malignant neoplasm of bone and bone marrow

My last scans showed small spots on my good lung, a spot on my liver….but the Tarceva appears to be working as my brain tumors are negligible, and my lymph nodes have shrunk drastically.

Throughout this journey we have had many ups and downs. When you never stop being treated for lung cancer it does become your life unfortunately. There have many things I couldn’t participate in for certain health reasons. So my family & friends made adjustments…and many of my bucket list wishes came true this last year.

My mission and wish is to RAISE AWARENESS FOR LUNG CANCER. So if you see a white ribbon you know it’s lung cancer. And if someone tells you they have lung cancer…the most insulting question you could ask is “how long did you smoke:” 28,000 Americans will die this year from lung cancer and being non-smokers.

Lung cancer kills more women/men then breast, colon, and prostrate combined. But is the least funded, and the one doctors & patients are uneducated and uninformed.

Dr. James O’Brien MD, MBA at Presbyterian Healthcare in Charlotte

Friday, October 12th, 2012

Presbyterian Cancer Center is participating in an international research trial focused on whether preventive lung cancer screening can aid early detection.

The collaborative trial, called the International Early Lung Cancer Action Program, will screen participants with low-dose CT scans. The study includes 48 institutions in nine countries.

It aims to determine whether that type of screening could be used for populations at a high risk of developing lung cancer, says Dr. James O’Brien of Mecklenburg Radiology Associates.

That radiology practice is Presbyterian’s imaging partner for medical testing. O’Brien will be the principal investigator for the study in Charlotte.

The initiative builds upon findings from the National Lung Screening Trial, released last year. That study found that CT screening reduces lung cancer mortality by 20% when compared with a chest X-ray.

“We’re definitely on the forefront of doing this,” O’Brien says.

The cancer center, part of Charlotte-based Presbyterian Healthcare, is the only site in a three-state radius participating in the trial.

The center has an annual enrollment goal of 500 patients. That will continue until the trial goals are met or a decision is made on CT screening for high-risk patients.

O’Brien estimates each CT scan will cost at least $150.

The cancer center will receive financial support to defray those costs from the LungStrong 15K/5K walk-run, a Charlotte-based charity race that supports lung-cancer research. “We’re going to try and give as much as we can,” says Eddie David, LungStrong founder.

The charity race began in 2007, following the death of David’s father from lung cancer. The event has raised about $500,000 over the past five years.

Early screening will help reduce deaths related to lung cancer, David says. “It’s something we’ve needed for a long time. The No. 1 cancer killer in the country is lung cancer.”

Most of Presbyterian’s participants will be referred by doctors, but some may choose to participate on their own if they have an extensive history of smoking, a family history of cancer or significant exposure to second-hand smoke.

“You’re looking to find the appropriate population that has this disease in a high enough frequency that you can screen for it adequately,” O’Brien says.

The National Cancer Institute estimated more than 220,000 people would be diagnosed with lung cancer in 2011. Less than 15% of patients survive five years after being diagnosed with the illness. Experts cite limited opportunities for early detection of the disease.

But O’Brien notes that 80% of patients diagnosed with Stage 1 lung cancer will survive. They face surgery to remove the cancer and follow up CT scans.

Courtesy of : Jennifer ThomasStaff Writer- Charlotte Business Journal