Don’t let the title fool you—mine was merely a supporting role.
The MGH Fund puts together an annual calendar, and I was asked to pose with a slide of my tumor (!) and March’s featured star, Dr. John Iafrate. John is a pathologist at MGH and also someone who knows me rather intimately–that is, on a cellular level. Those of you who are ALK+ are probably familiar with the Break Apart Fish Probe Kit–used to identify ALK+ cancers–well, that was developed in Dr. Iafrate’s lab. My continuing survival has been based on so much luck (a lot of it of the right place/right time variety). Had Dr. Iafrate not developed that diagnostic test when he did, well, I really would be history. As it was, my ALK+ status turned three to five months left to live into eleven and counting, come April (it was ten when we took this photo last year).
Pathologists are sort of the unsung heroes when it comes to the treatment of cancer despite the crucial role they play. When I was initially diagnosed with NSCLC in 2005, I wrote a thank you note to the pathologist. My general practitioner couldn’t see the forest for the trees, and had attributed more than two years of symptoms highly suggestive of lung cancer (cough, shortness of breath, clubbing of fingers, and even hemoptysis) to adult onset asthma. Even though my diagnosis was devastating I was also relieved to finally have a plausible explanation for my symptoms and that gratitude was directed toward the pathologist.
So anyway, here’s to Mr. March and pathologists everywhere. You know us better than we do, and we couldn’t make this journey without your guidance.