Day 28: for my final post devoted to Lung Cancer Awareness in the month of November I am going to talk about my superhero: Dr. Alice Shaw.
Alice and I met under what then felt like sad circumstances. It was the spring of 2009 and I was several months into my snatched from the brink of death fairy tale; aka crizotinib. As far as I was concerned (and I still feel this way), my original oncologist Dr. Tom Lynch walked on water. However, I woke up one morning only to read in the Boston Globe that Tom was leaving MGH to become the head of Yale’s Smilow Cancer Center. I was devastated and sent him a quick message saying I felt like he’d broken up with me via email. In my head I was already thinking I’d have to move closer to New Haven as I viewed my continuing survival to be inextricably linked to Tom Lynch–as an oncologist he was always on the cutting edge, having tested me for an EMLK4-ALK translocation in June of 2008, long before most of the world had even heard of an ALK mutation.
Tom replied quickly and with assurance; he had hand-picked my next oncologist and he was certain I would adore her.
I was at MGH for a long trial day (PF-02341066) when Alice introduced herself to me. We chatted for more than an hour as I had soooo many questions regarding my cancer (she was the lead investigator for PF-1066 as she was for ceritinib, the next agent I would go on trial for). She listened carefully, compassionately and answered with honesty but also great detail. The treasure chest that was my own personal medical information had finally been opened and I was smitten.
So what makes Dr. Alice Shaw so special? I had some fun researching her online in order to write this post and it amused me when I’d run into something I’d written when googling Alice Shaw (I have been rather vocal in my adoration). She was honored as a caregiver at MGH’s The One Hundred celebration in 2012 and at that time I said this: “Alice is an uncommon blend of brilliance and compassion. My relationship with her has greatly advanced my understanding of lung cancer while validating my personal experience–when coping with a serious illness that validation is empowering.”
That’s sort of Alice in a nutshell. Harvard educated (B.A. biochemistry, MD, PHD) she is an associate professor of medicine at her alma mater in addition to being a clinical oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital. She has been awarded numerous research grants and awards and on November 2nd was appointed as the inaugural incumbent of the Paula J. O’Keefe Endowed Chair in Thoracic Oncology. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience, as was Dr. Thomas Lynch, my original oncologist–he has returned to MGH in the position of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization. Dr. Jeff Engleman, no slouch himself in this crowd of crowds, gave the introductory speech and noted that Alice is simply the best at everything she does. But that she is also incredibly humble and down to earth and places the utmost importance on patient care–that she is fully invested in securing the best possible outcome for every single person she treats.
When Alice came to the podium that evening, she expressed her gratitude to all those who had supported her. Mentors, colleagues, fellows, research assistants, members of pharma, benefactors, family–including her Husband Stan and two lovely sons who were all in attendance. But she also thanked her patients.
Dr. Alice Shaw is a rising superstar in the field of thoracic cancers. I recently heard her husband Stan make the humorous comment that he knew her before she was famous. The beautiful thing is, the only way in which fame has changed Alice is she’s slightly less accessible due to demand. However, as I noted in my blog about my friend Christian, although he is no longer getting his care at MGH, she still calls to check up on him. Somehow, some way, she finds the time.
In 2012 I had this to say about my oncologist and I wouldn’t change a word today: “Alice is my super-hero. She is contributing to the future of cancer research and treatment. And she is doing her best to make sure I have a future as well.”
Love you Dr. Alice Shaw!
I am the lowest common denominator when it comes to instructions/rules/general compliance etc… This post is intended to be part of a blog chain this month (along with my blogs about Christian and Diane) but I failed to list the blogs prior to and following. I shall this time, however!
Yesterday: By Craig Blower about Dave Bjork found at http://craigblower.wordpress.com
Tomorrow: By Dann Wonser about Genevieve Wonser found at http://www.dannwonser.com
Linnea i love your blog. It touched my heart. I am so grateful to be in Dr. Alice Shaws care as well. She is truly a gift. As you so eloquently stated a perfect combo of brilliance and compassion. We are so fortunate to have her in our corner.
Thank you Dr. Alice Shaw
I just wanted to say I love reading to your posts they are so positive and inspirational!…even though my mum has now passed I am still subscribed with your post as they always put a smile on my face!!
Sent from my Skinny mobile.
I am sorry about your mum. I am also honored that you would continue to read my blog—thank you.
There is almost no need to tell you how inspiring your profile of Alice is to me. I have felt since our first visit after Yale and Stamford Hospitals, that she was the doctor with a plan for me. This was late 2011 after being diagnosed in 2009. Without a hesitation she explained to me and my husband what the trials entailed and all the driving and testing ahead, but that this was the right course to take. And she invited us into understanding the medical management entailed with her confident and patient explanations. Unlike you Linnea, I cannot rattle off my medical treatments like a doc, but I think my gift from her to me, has been the encouragement and direction she made me take, when I hesitated to start new trial drugs. I am blessed to have been sent to her by Scott Gettinger at Yale who knew her and assured me she now had the best answers, and how right he was. Thank you again for telling us your story with Alice and letting more of us send our love and gratitude to our wonderful doctor and friend, Alice. With love and admiration for you both, Brenda Lydecker motto: ” Never give up”
Brenda, I never responded! (shall I blame chemo brain?) We are blessed to have the same oncologist and I love the fact that I sometimes get to run into you at our appointments. And of course I love the motto—I would add one word though; never EVER give up.
Reblogged this on Brain Tumor Adventure.
Absolutely lovely description of Dr. Alice “in Cancerland” Shaw.
She is beautiful.
Thank you Linnea ♡♡♡
Thank you Kyle!
She is also my mother’s doctor.
Your mother is in good hands.
I agree. Dr. Alice Shaw is amazing.