Archive for the ‘Changing the Face of Lung Cancer’ Category

Montessa Lee is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, February 22nd, 2013

On the D.C. leg of Team Draft’s East Coast nationwide tour, we met Montessa Lee of Silver Spring, Maryland.  In 2006, she experienced chest pain, followed by shortness of breath and a cough.  A non-smoker, the cause of her problem bewildered doctors, who ultimately diagnosed her following a chest x-ray that confirmed she had advanced small cell lung cancer.

From Self Magazine‘s Lung Cancer Report:

“Anyone who has lungs can get lung cancer,” Montessa Lee stresses. She hopes her case will serve as a wake-up call for medical practition­ers to learn to look beyond their assumptions when making a diagnosis, which is why she recently completed training to speak at National Lung Cancer Partnership events. The organization’s Look Deeper campaign aims to make women aware of the signs and prevalence of lung cancer—knowledge that, until better screens or a cure are discovered, is our most powerful weapon in fighting the disease.

Read more of Montessa’s story at Self Magazine‘s website.

Montessa Lee, Lung cancer survivor from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Madeline Borrouso – Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Friday, February 8th, 2013

I have lived in New Orleans all of my life. I love it here. I am 66 years old and grew up with a large family, 4 brothers and 1 sister. When my children ask me what I did for fun as a child, I tell them I played ball. That is all we did for fun, the whole neighborhood would get together and play ball. And on Saturdays I would get together with some girl friends and go to Canal Street to shop and sometimes go to the show. We may have had $2.00 each, but could still have a good time, it is one of my fondest memories. I would not want to live anywhere else.

My husband and I had a catering hall for weddings and banquets, we did really well. I did all of the food and catering that was needed. We had the business since 1976 till 2005. It was in St. Bernard Parish. When Hurricane Katrina came we lost everything. The building had 20 feet of water in it for 2 weeks, everything was destroyed. It was very hard on my husband since it was pretty much all he ever did. So after having a thriving business for years, it all came to a halt. We thought we would retire one day and leave it to the children. Who would think after working so hard all of our lives on this business, we would lose it all.

Not only did we have water in the business, we also had 4 feet of water for 2 weeks in our house. We lived in an area that never flooded. We live in Old Metairie. The reason we got water is because the levee broke, and parts of Metairie was flooded. We fixed the house back up, sold it about 3 years ago, and moved into a town house around the corner from it.

After we got back in the house I continued to do catering to support us. I only do a little now and then because the catering business has really slowed up for me. My husband now drives a truck, but hates it, so now he is applying for jobs trying to get back into catering with some of the hotels in New Orleans. He says it is all he really knows how to do.

I have 4 great children, all grown, and 8 wonderful grandchildren. They are the love of my life. I like to baby sit the grandchildren, so almost all the time they are by my house or I am by theirs. My children are all very successful in their jobs, 3 have their own businesses and 1 is in the medical field. They are all wonderful and a pleasure to have, and they love their mother.

Living in New Orleans is so great. The food is wonderful. One of our greatest pleasures is to eat out at good restaurants. Before we lost the business, we ate out every Saturday. We became “foodies”, a person who appreciates good food and eats out a lot. We now still eat out, but not as much.

Cancer story:

On July 31, 2010, I had a stroke. I did not tell my family about the stroke. I guess I was in denial. They knew that something was wrong and brought me to the hospital on Wednesday, August 4.
At the hospital, they confirmed that I did have a stroke; they kept me a few days, gave me medicine, and sent me home. A few days later, I thought I had another stroke and went to the emergency room. While I was there, one of the doctors in the emergency room took an x-ray of my chest and saw a shadow, she thought it was pneumonia and gave me antibiotics to take. When we followed up on the pneumonia, the shadow was still present.
In mid-September, we found out I had lung cancer. We were shocked, particularly because I have never smoked. From the start, my oncologist has been Dr. Brian Boulmay. I feel like the day I met him was one of the best days of my life. Even though I have lung cancer, I have a doctor who I think is the best there is.

My cancer was not operable. Dr. Boulmay immediately put me on a Chemotherapy pill called Tarceva. It was a very hard pill for me to take because it dried out my skin really bad. I started losing my hair — it just got really thin. I lost all of the taste buds in my mouth, so I did not feel like eating anything. I lost about twenty pounds. I had a scan done about every 3 months, and the Tarceva was working. The cancer was not growing, and some of the spots on my lungs actually got smaller. It continued to work for about a year, until a scan showed that the spots were getting larger again.My only option at that point was traditional chemotherapy. Dr. Boulmay used two types of medicine: alimta and carboplatin. I received the chemo drip every three weeks, and had a scan done about every three months. I had really good results. The spots did not grow and sometimes actually shrunk. Eventually, we stopped the carboplatin, and now I am continuing to take the alimta every three weeks. My scans continue to be good. I will continue the alimta for the rest of my life as maintenance chemotherapy.

Incredibly, I have not gotten sick from the traditional chemotherapy. My hair grew back, and I regained some weight. My appetite is back to normal. Whatever Dr. Boulmay is doing for me, it is working.

I just thank God he is my doctor and feel very lucky that he found me.

Tackling Lung Cancer with Survivor Linda Wortman and the Mayo Clinic

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

Lung cancer survivor LInda Wortman represented Team Draft’s “Survivor at Every Stadium” at the Minneapolis Metrodome.

Tackling Lung Cancer with Survivor Linda Wortman and the Mayo Clinic from TEAM DRAFT on Vimeo.

Eva Borsi is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

“I have never smoked a day in my life,” begins Eva Borsi, a Seattle resident who is being treated at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for stage IV lung cancer.

“I am a vegetarian. I ride my bike to work every day. An outdoor enthusiast and all around athletic person, I never imagined hearing the words ‘stage IV lung cancer,’” she says.

Eva was a healthy 46-year old mother of three daughters in March 2011 when she heard those words.

“When I experienced shortness of breath while biking a hill I had biked every day for the past six years, I tried to dismiss it, but at the urging of my friends, I went to see my primary care provider of 20 years, Karen Carlson, at the UW Medicine Roosevelt Clinic,” Eva says.

“Given our long history as patient and provider, she knew I rarely complained and took my concern very seriously,” Eva says.

Thanks to Karen’s swift action, the ball was rolling immediately. That day a chest X-ray revealed fluid around Eva’s lung, and she knew it was serious.

“Karen was worried, too,” Eva says, “and she referred me to pulmonology where the fluid was drained the next day.”

Karen’s worries were validated when pathology found cancer cells in the drained fluid.

“Dignity and pride are very important to me,” Eva says. “I needed to be emotionally ready for whatever news I was to receive. I had to prepare myself for the appointment that ultimately gave me the diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer.”

Diagnosis, Treatment, and Hope
After hearing “lung cancer,” Eva was referred to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance to see medical oncologist Laura Q. M. Chow, MD, the following day. At SCCA, Dr. Chow gave Eva her first tiny ray of hope.

“Thanks to Dr. Chow’s devotion to clinical research, I have been receiving state-of-the-art care since the beginning,” Eva says. “Three weeks after my initial diagnosis, I began chemotherapy. Due to my overall health, Dr. Chow correctly thought I could handle the heavy hitters of cisplatin, Alimta, and Avastin for five rounds. I responded well to initial chemotherapy while still working and commuting on my bike. By the end of round five, the fluid around my lungs disappeared and the tumors shrank, but I was exhausted every day. I learned firsthand what it meant to deal with chemo and all its side effects.”

After three months of initial chemo treatment, Eva was put on Alimta maintenance in hopes that the cancer cells would not grow or spread. Tolerating Alimta alone was much easier than the platinum-based therapy of cisplatin for Eva, but it was certainly not the life she envisioned for herself at age 46.

Treatment on a Clinical Study
“Many people stay on a maintenance therapy drug as long as it works, ” Eva says. “In my case after three rounds, a change needed to happen. Because Dr. Chow believes in the advances of clinical trials, I started a study drug MDX-1105 on October 14, 2011. Not knowing exactly what to expect from this preliminary drug trial, we hoped for the best.”

“Eva is on an exciting new Phase I clinical trial looking at a novel immunotherapy that re-stimulates the body’s own immune system to recognize and kill the lung cancer,” Dr. Chow says.

This trial has kept Eva stable ever since. “And stable is good in the late stages of cancer,” Eva says. “Importantly, it has given me back the quality of life I had prior to diagnosis.”

Very minor side effects allow Eva to feel like her normal spunky self. She receives her “life juice,” as Eva calls it, every two weeks at SCCA. “Physically I have been doing very well, but dealing with the emotional side of cancer is a day-to-day thing. I have been exceptionally strong as Dr. Chow says. One day at a time…”

Caring Network
Eva’s network of friends is large. She used to bring a gang of people with her on chemotherapy days to help her get through it emotionally.

“My coworkers have generously donated their leave time to me so I do not have to face more financial hardship due to treatment,” Eva says. “The outpouring of support from friends, coworkers, and even strangers has been tremendous.”

Eva has also found support from an online forum for people dealing with lung cancer in their lives. Through them, she has discovered that not all treatment centers are like SCCA. “I have received prompt, proper attention and cutting-edge care, and Dr. Chow has even taken the time to call me just to see how I am doing,” Eva says. I have never had to chase anyone or any information down. If you have to be sick, SCCA is the place to be.”

Remove the Stigma
“My greatest hopes for lung cancer, besides a cure, are to decrease the stigma surrounding it and to increase funding for lung cancer research. I wish people did not ask me if I smoked. The stigma and under funding are discouraging,” Eva says, citing the example that far fewer people are aware that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month than are aware that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“And many more women are affected by lung cancer than breast cancer,” Eva says.

She is now involved in Breathe Deep Seattle, a local organization that raises support and funds for lung cancer research and awareness through the national organization of LUNGevity.

Living with Lung Cancer
“When you have cancer, you may change your views on life, but you still have the everyday struggles,” Eva says. “Living every day to the fullest can be difficult, and the idea of a bucket list can be impractical. My reality is that I have to take myself to work to keep my insurance to pay for my treatment. Of course I still find time to have fun, but not always in bucket list kind of ways.”

Eva finds pleasure in small things… her friends, her children, her dog, and a good workout in the gym or the occasional sunshine inside and outside.

“I hope to be able to ride my beloved pink bike a little while longer….it has been a year since the start of this new normal…I celebrated it with a weekend of skiing fun with friends,” Eva says.


Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I was diagnosed with lung cancer in July 2011, after a routine CT scan for a kidney cyst showed a ground glass opacity on my left lung. At first, I was somewhat concerned, but not too much—I could breathe well and I was a Zumba instructor for goodness sake. I would have had symptoms if it were cancer, wouldn’t I?

This was in the back of my mind and I wasn’t too concerned until my family doctor said, “You can’t just ignore this. I’m sending you to a pulmonologist.” That’s when things started to change. I liked my pulmonologist right away, but he looked at my scans and said that I needed a bronchoscopy. “What?” I said. “I have no symptoms. I’m ok, right?” He told me that the scans could mean nothing, but we needed to visually examine the mass with a bronchoscopy. READ MORE! Curtsey Of  the National Lung Cancer Partnership

Changing the Face of Lung Cancer: THE LOVE OF THREE SISTERS

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

This love story is about the youngest of seven children Sarah (Sharon) Johnson. She was born to Henry and Sarah Simmons of Monticello, Florida on December 14, 1961. Cynthia was born January 7, 1961 so the two were eleven months apart and grew up together (inseparable) from the time they were innate. Sharon was quiet, yet strong, a beacon of life, athletic and a fighter for life. She was a beacon of light to all in her path. She ate healthy and was conscientious to eat a healthy diet and get a physical when required. How, could she be facing a diagnosis of lung cancer?

The older sister Carolyn was eight years older so her role in their lives was more maternal until we became adults. The relationship then grew into the strongest friendship ever. Sharon married and traveled extensively to different cities. She settled in Virginia and there is where she was able to visit the family more often. Each city she lived Cynthia and Carolyn would visit her with their families. Sharon has two sons ages 27 and 19. When they were younger she and Cynthia would plan vacations and family reunions together. On January 29, 2010 Sharon called to tell Cynthia she had a pain in her leg. She had tried several treatments that did not work. She went to the doctor and he told her she had a blood clot. He had her to treat the clots with Lovinox shots. This was not helping the pain and in a few days she had excruciating pain in her left arm and had to be taken to the emergency room. They found clots in her arm and had to be hospitalized. On February 9th her fiancée sent a text message stating she was adjusting and he would stay in touch with us. They had given her heparin to control the clots. On February 14th she began to have chest pains. On the 15th we received a text message stating they found more clots on both lungs lower bottom lobes. Her levels had increased some. We broke down and cried and wondered what was causing these clots. Cynthia traveled from Atlanta to Virginia the next day. When we arrived the children and I went to her bedside. We could not wait to touch her, hug her, and let her know how much we love her. When the doctors could not determine what was causing the clots to move around, the specialist ordered a full set of tests which included CT scan, EEG, EKG, and MRI. They observed a spot on her lung. They conducted the lung biopsy on the lower lobe of her lungs. The results were due back at the end of the week; however, they told her on Thursday while her fiancée was with her that she may have cancer. They plan to do a PET scan. She shared the news with us later that evening. When she fell in my arms with the news we couldn’t believe our ears. We grabbed her tightly and were in shock we told her we would go through this together and Satan would not have this victory. My sister’s faith was unshakable. She truly believed God would heal her. She NEVER smoked; therefore being told you have lung cancer came as a shock. That was the case with my dear sister Sharon in January 2010, when she received the devastating news – stage IV non-small cell lung cancer.
She was genetically matched to the pill Tarceva. She began taking it in March. Her oncologist did a pet scan in July and the results were clear.
Carolyn and I began alternating months to visit to take care of Sharon. During the visits she and I would reminisce over our childhood memories, watch movies, and watch her favorite tennis channel. We would take her to get her manicures and pedicures. She loved when her pastor would come serve her holy communion. Carolyn would take her riding, shop for her needs and desires of her heart. We would have her favorite fish dinners, do errands, perform any household chores, and simply chat and have giant laughs.
We thought of the best medical facilities that specialize in cancer. The three sisters visited each facility; Duke Hospital, Durham, North Carolina, followed with lunch, in addition we visited Sloan Kettering lung center, New York, N.Y., both physicians were optimistic. The experts said the medicine Tarceva was suitable for her cancer and she should be fine. We were rejoicing. The New York trip holds a special memory. After the Doctor visit at Sloan’s Sharon called us to her room and embraced us tightly. She said how much she loved us and could never express enough gratitude for all we have done and continue to do for her. She said she knew for sure she would not be where she was in her recovery without our love and unwavering support and generosity.
We spent both Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family. I remember Sharon coming in the kitchen where Cynthia and I were preparing dinner for Christmas, she came and joined us for a few minutes to give a hug (the three of us embraced endlessly) and thanked us for everything, and we replied “we would not have it any other way”. Nonetheless, we rang in 2011 with gratitude “Happy New Year” as a threesome. I recall the Saturday that Sharon shared her personal affairs with me advising that I was her administrator. My weekends were consumed diligently with compassion, love, and commitment for my baby sister (Sharon) who is so missed that no words can begin to neither describe nor explain.
She planned to return to work after Labor Day. Sharon was an avid tennis fan and watched the tennis channel. Her favorite pastime was reading books. Her dream was to attend the US Open in New York to see her favorite Tennis players Roger Federer, Nadal, and the Williams sisters. She was able to attend the Open in Flushing, NY Labor Day 2010. She returned to work in September. Shortly after she began work she began to have chest pains in October and had to be hospitalized. The symptoms were similar to pneumonia. Her oncologist decided to take her off Tarceva. He said he couldn’t be sure if the medication was causing the fluid buildup and didn’t want to chance it causing more complications. During October and November he allowed her to prepare for chemotherapy. She asks if she could participate in a clinical trial. He told her by the time she could locate one to participate in she would probably have six months to live. When she was to start her chemotherapy in November she was told the cancer had spread to three spots in the brain. She began radiation treatment and the spots were eradicated. At the age of 49, with the support of her family on January 7, 2011 she began chemotherapy for the treatment of Stage IV lung cancer. We would visit with Sharon and take her to the doctor appointments. In April when we took her to her last treatment she asks the doctor for her prognosis. He seem hesitate and she told him if he could not promise her ten years to live she didn’t want to know her prognosis. We along with cousins had planned our 50th birthday celebration in May 6, 2011. Sharon doctor tried to encourage her to attend, but she refused because it was the week her 2nd round of treatment was to begin. Her Oncologist knew she didn’t have long but would not share that information with us. Even her last week in the hospital he said to her that when she got stronger she could return and begin treatment. However, he had told her there was no cure and the chemo was to make her comfortable. Sharon desire for life, love for her family and her faith would not allow her to accept this prognosis. The chemo would leave her exhausted, nauseated and stole her energy. This fight lasted for only a short (six) 6 months.
After her passing I called her team of doctors and ask what the cause of her death was. The oncologist shared that the cancer had returned to the brain. They commended her for being such a miracle patient she was truly a beacon of light, hope and inspiration to all in her path. She stayed positive and always had a smile on her face. The earth has truly suffered a great loss. She lived past their professional expectation.
Cynthia and Carolyn are dedicated to raising lung cancer awareness and enhancing the importance of critical funding for lung cancer research by shattering the misconception that lung cancer is a “smoker’s disease.” We have raise funds and participated in several 5K walks with the Free to Breath Foundation. We miss Sharon each day and is so grateful that God allowed us to be encompassed of her fifteen month journey. We know we will see her again. Her spirit will live forever.
We were blessed to have Chris Draft speak at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, Georgia on December 2nd. He shared the story of his wife LaKeasha Draft and how he is raising funds and awareness through changing the face of lung cancer.

Mary Hendrix is Shining a Light on Lung Cancer

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Only a few weeks ago, Turner Field was packed to its maximum 53,000-seat capacity as Atlanta Braves fans bade goodbye to their beloved third baseman, Chipper Jones.

On Tuesday evening, Nov. 13, the lights were on at Turner Field, but the seats were empty. The ballpark was bare to signify the number of people – 53,000 Americans– who, in the next four months alone, will lose their chances of ever sitting in those seats because they will die of lung cancer.

The event, called Shine a Light on Lung Cancer, was sponsored by the Lung Cancer Alliance, a national advocacy group. In fact, the group backs legislation – and encourages you to do so, too – that would reduce by half the number of lung cancer deaths in the U.S. by 2020.

Lung cancer is the nation’s number one cancer killer, killing more men than prostate, colorectal and pancreatic cancers combined. It also is the number one cancer killer of women, killing more women than breast, cervical and ovarian cancers combined.

While all cancers faced stigma for decades, lung cancer advocates believe that stigma still continues to work against their cause today. They understand the reason – tobacco usage, which accounts for a large majority of new cases of lung cancer.

But as survivor Mary Hendrix, who is being treated at Winship, said, “the face of lung cancer should not be a cigarette. The face of lung cancer is people here in this room, mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, and people who never smoked.”

Hendrix explained that she is one of a growing number of Baby Boomers who smoked in their youth, quit and never gave it a second thought – until a routine exam decades later revealed a grape-sized tumor in her right lung.

There are tens of thousands of new cases of lung cancer like Hendrix’s each year.

“Do we deserve this disease just because we made a bad choice decades ago?” Hendrix said.

Suresh Ramalingam, affectionately known throughout Winship as “Dr. Ram,” gave a hopeful, inspiring talk to the group.

Since 2009, the Lung Cancer Mutation Consortium, of which he and Winship’s world-renowned lung cancer investigator are co-leaders, have made major strides in unlocking lung cancer’s secrets.

At different sites across the country, the LCMC collected specimens from more than 1,000 patients with lung adenocarcinoma and discovered that in 65 percent of them, “you can actually find a switch to turn that cancer off.”

That’s far from a cure, Dr. Ram explained, as cancer often finagles a way to turn the switch back on. But the point is that striking progress is being made. Dr. Ram also mentioned that when the first text on lung cancer was written more than a century ago, approximately 300 cases of lung cancer were documented worldwide.

“There is no reason we can’t turn back the clock 200 years,” Dr. Ram said. Of the empty seats in the stadium behind him, Dr. Ram said: “I can actually look at these seats and see faces of my patients.

Respond and Donate Today  as Team Draft leads a National Campaign to Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Dan Friedman is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

Dan Friedman was 43 in late 2010 when he began to feel a little short of breath while exercising. It was fall, and he enjoyed working out often, at the gym four or five days a week. But the crisper weather had him running outdoors alongside his wife of 20 years. He was enjoying life, enjoying being a husband, and a father of three.
Since Dan appeared so healthy, and is a non-smoker, doctors assumed he had a case of exercise-induced asthma. It was early 2011 when more tests were ordered. Eventually a CT scan showed some abnormalities in his lungs, and most alarming, a large amount of fluid around his heart and lungs.
Dan was told to go to the hospital immediately. And by the end of the week, the first week of May 2011, it seemed the diagnosis was more clear: a surgeon said he believed it was probably lung cancer, and if it was cancer, it was bad. A biopsy was scheduled and within a few days confirmed that it was Non-Small Cell Stage Four Adenocarcinoma of the lungs. Dan, a non-smoker who appeared healthy and lived a healthy lifestyle, had cancer in both lungs, all throughout, and surrounding the lungs and heart.
Meeting with Dr. Ramaswamy Govindan at Siteman Cancer Center, St. Louis, put Dan and his family’s minds at ease. Despite a frightening diagnosis, they offered hope in some newer treatments for late stage lung cancer.
As Dan’s family and friends prayed, his cancer cells were being studied more closely. A gene study of his cells showed that he had the EGFR mutation. This very specific mutation was the answer to some very specific prayers. A drug called Tarceva had recently been approved as a first line treatment for lung cancer patients with this mutation, and this meant Dan’s treatment would be simpler than traditional chemotherapy, and most likely more effective, since the drug targets a mutation within the cancer cell more accurately.

Dan’s cancer receded by more than 90 percent just 5 or so weeks after he began treatment with Tarceva. Dan and his family, his wife, children, are so grateful for this reversal and the health and happy times it has brought. Dan’s treatment has included a pill a day, so he and his family were able to serve on a mission trip to Ecuador, take vacations, visit their son in the Air Force, and live life easily even with a stage four lung cancer diagnosis. They are so thankful doctors at Siteman knew to do this test, to see if Dan had this mutation. And so thankful for the answered prayers that he did.

Dan’s treatment now includes chemotherapy in addition to Tarceva to head off some minor progression, which was expected after a period of time. But a new biopsy was ordered, and a new gene study is being conducted to look for additional clues as to how his cancer has changed. So, additional prayers are being said, and he and his family are hopeful. And thankful….for amazing doctors and staff, researchers, caring friends and family, and a God who is bigger than cancer.

 Respond and Donate Today as Team Draft’s leads a National Campaign to Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Aisha Avery and Nekita Martin Are Tackling Lung Cancer

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

teamdraft-ribbonlogo-CFLCblog-0He said, ‘Keep a steady pace and focus on your breathing,’ the night before the Peachtree Road Race. I’d always wanted to run it, and this was my first time. I called him the night before because I was so excited. Before we hung up, he told me to run the long stretches and walk up the steep hills. My father was a natural leader and problem solver, so he always offered the advice I needed – even if I didn’t ask.

Atlanta’s a pretty hilly city and the 10K definitely contained a few. I’ve driven down that strip of Peachtree Street many times, but I had never noticed. During the run, I found his advice helpful and finished in less than 66 minutes which was my target time. (Secret’s out…I’m a pretty slow runner ;).)

After the run, I went to visit him and he surprised me by cooking a Fourth of July dinner for us. My mother usually cooked, but she was in Maryland visiting family with my older sister, Nikki, and younger brother, AJ. The food was great and I enjoyed spending that summer holiday with him. I have countless memories of my father, but this one epitomizes his role in my life: he gave direction, warned me of challenges and offered solutions, and was always present to celebrate my accomplishments.

This was in 2007 around the time when my memories became a bit fuzzy.

Two months later, things were different. At the time, I couldn’t fully articulate how they’d changed. My father wasn’t playing tennis on the weekends nor working out to keep fit anymore. He stopped working on the home improvement projects around the house that he’d just recently begun. He was extremely tired most of the time. He wasn’t used to being so inactive and we weren’t accustomed to seeing him ill.

He began visiting a stream of doctors. One doctor discovered he was anemic and thought a prescription would fix things. A colonoscopy revealed polyps they later found weren’t cancerous. This just the beginning, we were on a mission to solve this problem and collecting any clues we could pick up along the way.

It was a fall filled with tests.

By November, my father was tired of doctors and tests. He was over six feet tall and typically weighed about 220lbs, but his weight was steadily declining. His complexion was a beautiful brown tone, one I used to try to sun bathe to achieve, but it turned a yellowish tint. None of us knew what to do. My mother, siblings and I were used to him giving us the next directive, but he seemed out of ideas, too.

One day in December, we went to the emergency room. After another series of tests, we learned that my father had lung cancer. His doctor showed us the x-ray of the tumor on his left lung and explained how it couldn’t be removed because of it’s proximity to the arteries the lung shared with his heart. We listened to the treatment options and went from there.

It was a cold start to a long winter.

My father was a smoker for years and his family has a history of lung disease. During his series of tests, I remember the strength of his lungs being tested with an apparatus that you blow into, but this x-ray was the first test to reveal the cancer. We all wondered why the prior testing didn’t solve this for us, but time was moving too quickly to worry about the past or harp on what ifs.

I wanted to learn about lung cancer so I could help more. Typically, the more I educate myself on something, the more I understand. With lung cancer, it was the opposite. The statistics and facts surrounding the disease in 2007 left me shocked and stunned. I learned that it’s America’s leading cancer killer, yet it’s highly underfunded. It kills more women than breast cancer and more men than prostate cancer; I never would have guessed this. In most cases, lung cancer is diagnosed too late so those affected have a low survival rate.

Initially, it didn’t make sense, but, when you really think about it, it actually does. If lung cancer kills more Americans than any other cancer and gets a small fraction of national cancer research funds, then the medical community will not be equipped with the tools needed to early diagnose the disease. If awareness is low, then people won’t be cognizant of what they’re up against – my family definitely wasn’t. Without the proper research to support treatment options and finding a cure, patients with aggressive cases won’t be likely to succeed.

The fall may have been fuzzy, but winter was pretty clear. My memories were clear, too. My father maintained his role as the source of strength for my family and fought a tough battle. He died a couple of weeks before spring and what would have been his 53rd birthday.

Lung cancer kills, but loss doesn’t have to be everyone’s story.

I wanted to find a way to honor my father’s memory, but I also wanted to find a way to help other families affected by this disease. It was difficult to navigate my way into the lung cancer community; I couldn’t find any events or contacts in Atlanta. I didn’t know where to start. In April, I drove to Athens to run in a lung cancer 5K. I just wanted to feel like I was doing something. One of my best friends, Anita, went with me, and it was special that she wanted to help.

I called around to different lung cancer foundations, and I found the LUNGevity Foundation. Their executive director at the time, Beth, was a true gift; the type of person who radiates sincerity and hugs you with her voice. She listened to my story about my father, understood why I wanted to help the cause, and, most importantly, she told me how I could help them make a difference.

In 2009, I became active as a national lung cancer advocate and started Atlanta’s Breathe Deep 5K with the help of family and friends. Each year we meet the families in Atlanta who have been affected by this disease and we fight it together. My heart always goes out to the daughters I meet who have lost their fathers to lung cancer – I always feel like I know how they feel which makes me want to help even more.

This year will be our forth annual event. Nikki took over as the coordinator when I moved to London last year and has done a wonderful job. We have a small group, including AJ and Anita, working together to make sure the event is successful. This group has been volunteering their time every summer and fall to plan this event and increase lung cancer awareness. We always set a fundraising goal and target a specific number of participants, but we truly believe our job is done if families leave knowing they are not alone in this fight and others leave knowing at least one new fact about lung cancer.

Every family has their own unique story, so we all experience the natural flow of the circle of life differently. Unfortunately, loved ones will pass away. My hope is that lung cancer won’t be the reason.

I believe we can stop it together.

Caine Halter is Changing the Face of Lung Cancer!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

The Diagnosis: July 13, 2006

Caine Halter had been a natural athlete since childhood and led a healthy lifestyle; he also was a lifelong non-smoker. For several weeks, he had a deep cough and headache that he could not shake, and current medication was not helping. His doctor gave Caine a prescription for a new and stronger antibiotic. Shirley Halter, Caine’s mother, was in the hospital and had been diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer only days earlier on July 11. Therefore, as a precautionary measure, Caine’s doctor also conducted a chest X-ray while he had him in his office. Caine received a call on his cell phone from his doctor before he even got to the pharmacy. His doctor told him the X-ray showed a mass on his lungs. Further tests were conducted and within a few days, Caine and his wife, Laurie, listened in disbelief as the doctor gave them the terrible diagnosis – lung cancer, Stage IV. As Caine was diagnosed as “non-smoker with stage IV NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) with brain and bone metastases,” his mother was brought home with hospice care. She passed
away one month later.

The Commitment to Fight

Caine’s strong faith and never-ending positive attitude had long been a big part of his life. It would be this amazing foundation upon which his battle with lung cancer unfolded. His courage would never waiver; his hope would not be diminished. Whether at MD Andersen for consults or at home fighting the day-today battle with the incredible team at CancerCenters of the Carolinas, Caine was 110% committed to win the fight. He felt strongly that with his determination, God’s help and the best medical teams, he could beat lung cancer and become his own statistic.

Aggressively approaching his treatments, Caine decided immediately on more promising, investigational therapies through clinical trials. The hidden benefit of helping advance research and potentially helping others in the future was not lost on him either. He hunkered down with his (now completely) bald head gleaming and ran head on into the vicious cycles of cancer treatment – chemo, radiation, scans… repeat.

And like many Stage IV lung cancer patients, Caine had moments of victory and moments of defeat.

Unfortunately, due to limited lung cancer research, his treatment options also became more limited. But throughout his illness, Caine had no bitterness and no despair. His calm faith in the midst of the storm inspired hope in thousands of friends, neighbors, business associates, and evenstrangers. Hundreds joined “Caine’s Army,” a group started by a close friend, which rallied around him and lifted him with ongoing prayers and support throughout his battle. Caine recognized that people were
his greatest blessing during his time of crisis.

Lung Cancer: The Reality

While buoyed by Caine’s hopeful and positive spirit, his family and friends were forced to watch his suffering increase week after week and to face the realities of the disease. Since his initial diagnosis, everyone around him had been learning everything they could about lung cancer. The facts were shocking – but with minimal public awareness:

• Lung cancer is still the #1 cancer killer of men and women in the US, yet it receives the
least research funding.
• Three out of five people diagnosed will die within 12 months.
• The disease is being diagnosed too late – as there is no proven early screening test.
• Approximately 25,000 new lung cancer diagnoses this year will be non-smokers.

Upset and wanting to help, his family decided to plan a run/walk event to drive both awareness and research funding. Thus, Lungs for Life was born. Caine was committed to the cause and had planned to participate in the race. However, he passed away August 10, 2007 and never received that chance.

The Hope

Caine celebrated life and approached everything — including his cancer — with incredible strength, amazing faith and remarkable grace. He was the loving father of teenagers, Caine Jr. and Page. He was completely devoted to his wife, Laurie, who was the love of his life. He was a loving son, caring brother and lifelong friend.

Caine realized each day was a gift, and he greeted it with joy and excitement. His tremendous heart, positive attitude and generous spirit guided him day by day. He taught us all lessons of hope by the way he lived his life and fought this battle. Caine’s courage will forever inspire us.

There IS hope in the fight against lung cancer!

Caine’s family and friends will honor his life by fighting back against lung cancer with passion and commitment. Through Caine Halter Lungs for Life, we will work to raise lung cancer awareness, fund critical research and provide greater hope to others in the future.