Tag Archives: lung cancer

Media: getting your story out there

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 12.57.24 PMThe New York Times devoted their Magazine on Sunday to cancer and I was lucky enough to have my story included in the online version. This is the second time I have appeared in the New York Times and no, I don’t know anyone who works there. However, I am an avid Times reader and in both cases responded to a request for reader’s stories. Each time I got back to the editors shortly after the request was made (important) and had a striking, high resolution image to accompany my story. The clipping on the left is from 2010 and Sadie Dayton took the photo.

For Sunday’s version, which you can see here, I included a recent headshot taken by my friend Daniel Mathieu. And happily for Daniel and myself (and lung cancer, which is why I do this stuff in the first place) we got top billing.

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So my advice is to be on the lookout for opportunities to share your story with media and when they present themselves be ready (elevator speech and accompanying image) and don’t be shy. You might be just what they were looking for.

xo

This is Hope

It’s been more than two weeks now but I’m still high on Lungevity’s National HOPE Summit. Some clever person in attendance coined the hashtag #thisishope which absolutely sums up what I have come to view as one big family reunion. This year we numbered about 300 survivors and caretakers. All with a common goal; doing something about lung cancer.

Dolio, Linnea, Bruno and Diane.

Dolio, Linnea, Bruno and Diane.

Leslie and Andy Trahan (<3 these two)

Leslie and Andy Trahan (

Striking this year were the number of young people in attendance—and of course the older I get, the greater the number of survivors who I look at and think, ‘you could be my child’. Absolutely unacceptable and something that really gets my panties in a twist. However, what these young survivors and their caretakers bring to advocacy is immeasurable passion, energy and optimism. I am also always incredibly moved by those advocates who have lost either a family member (sadly, sometimes a child) or a close friend to lung cancer but continue to fight for not only their lost loved one but all of us with this disease. Thank you.

It is never a good time to have lung cancer but with FDA approval of eleven different drugs for lung cancer since 2006, it is at least a time of increasing therapeutic options. And look at that picture of all the people who have lived for ten years past diagnosis (Diane and myself included)—again, hugely encouraging.

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Survivors ten years and more out from diagnosis

And that first photo? Dolio, Bruno, Diane and I are all lung cancer patients/advocates (although you wouldn’t guess the patient part looking at the picture, and that is why I love it so). The four of us went out to dinner the final evening of HOPE summit. Our reservation had been mistakenly made for the following night and the only available table was outside and it was pretty darn chilly. Diane played the C card and upon hearing that we were all living with lung cancer, the manager was overcome. His mom had just been diagnosed with advanced breast cancer, and our smiling faces made him feel infinitely more hopeful. He ushered us over to perhaps the best seat in the house and then brought us this ridiculous (but oh so fun) tropical drink. It was a lovely and somewhat surreal ending to a fabulous weekend of learning/bonding. Thank you Lungevity and see you next year!

Advocacy April

LUNG FORCE: I’ve been on a whirlwind of advocacy and it all started with a quick trip to DC with LUNG FORCE and the American Lung Association. Advocates from all fifty states were pulled together to lobby Congress to sign on to a proposed bill increasing funding to the NIH. It was a heady if all too fast experience with a surprise appearance by Miss Patti Labelle (who sang Somewhere Over the Rainbow–my favorite ever song), as well as some inspiring comments about where cancer research is heading from Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the NIH. In addition we heard from Congresswoman Nita Lowey and Senator Dick Durbin, Dr. Johnathan R. Whetstine, Harold Wimmer (CEO of the ALA) and myself—adding the patient perspective. As always, it was great to catch up with some of my lung cancer peeps and to make some new friends as well.

LUNG FORCE advocacy day

LUNG FORCE advocacy day

My friend Karen Latzka gives Dr. Francis Collins a hug

My friend Karen Latzka gives Dr. Francis Collins a hug

Me and Miss Patti Labelle

Me and Miss Patti Labelle

My friend Janet Freeman-Daily in New Orleans for the AACR SSP program

Me and my friend Janet Freeman-Daily in New Orleans for the AACR SSP program

Invitation to Cancer 101

Invitation to Cancer 101

The panel for Cancer 101

The panel for Cancer 101

The patient has a seat at the table: representing

The patient has a seat at the table: representing

AACR SSP: I found out about the AACR’s Survivor Scientist Program by chance—two days before applications were due. My friend and fellow advocate Janet Freeman (who I learned had also applied) was a trooper and at my last minute request, wrote a letter of recommendation for me.

To say I had technical difficulties from the get go is an understatement. Unable to download their application form and with no time to figure out a way around my issue, I sent in what could only be described as cut and paste. And crossed my fingers.

Weeks went by and Janet learned she had been accepted to the program but I heard nothing. Oh well—Janet would be an excellent representative for lung cancer and I figured I could apply the following year.

And then I got a phone call from a lovely woman named Karen Mills, wondering why I had not responded to the notification that I had been accepted. Long story short, it was right around this time that I became aware that quite a few of the emails I was sending out had not been answered. At first I figured it was me, that nobody liked me anymore (sure, why not). But finally I realized that it was related to my email account having been hacked. My super smart former son-in-law Jamie explained that the hackers could be selectively intercepting some of my inbox. Turns out these wiley hackers had opened another account using my name: linnea.1111@hotmail.com. NOT ME, and yet much of my mail was/is being sent to that account. It is a big hot mess that I am still trying to untangle.

But back to the SSP—I was in!

Truth is, I had no idea WHAT I was in for. The SSP takes advocacy to a whole other level and I will not be able to convey everything I took away from these few days in one post.

Held in New Orleans as part of the annual AACR (American Association of Clinical Researcher’s) convention, it was like boot camp for advocates interested in learning more (much more) about the science and policy behind cancer research. Lots of rock stars of the cancer world here, and Vice President Joe Biden shared remarks about his Cancer Moonshot at the closing event (which sadly I missed—due to an early morning flight).

Over the coming weeks I will tell you more about what I learned while in attendance (one of the mandates of participation—that you share information gleaned there with your community).

NCCR:  Next up was a congressional briefing pertaining to the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. I again provided the patient perspective alongside a very distinguished panel (see image above). And I was positively touched that my son August’s childhood friend Jonathan Soohoo was in attendance along with my dear friend Sally. Absolutely exhilarating. Next up: Lungevity’s National Hope Summit!

By its cover

2016 began rather inauspiciously at a Great Gatsby themed New Year’s Ball. Held in a gorgeous old church, the night looked very promising. However the venue was poorly heat, the drinks insipid and the music far too loud. My grumpiness just made me feel old–not how I wanted to ring in a new year. We left a few minutes prior to midnight and when home I collapsed on the couch with my laptop. I intended to check a few emails before heading to bed but somehow got sucked into a site with before and after plastic surgery photos. Before too long I was looking at photos of Courtney Love. From bad to worse!

Fortunately I had some solid plans for the following day as I was preparing a meal for seven close friends. I’m still a little rusty when it comes to cooking and entertaining–my time management skills are way off–but I dove right in. When it comes to socializing, dinner parties are my absolute favorite. There is something about a table that is a great equalizer as conversation seems to both flow and include all.

I received a number of wonderful gifts that evening in addition to the company of dear friends. A beautiful centerpiece, a patron saint (never can get enough of those), the promise of some art (again, never enough). And a special gift from my friends Machiko and Koichiro; wrapped in indigo cloth. Tucked inside were two little wooden boxes filled with chocolate candy made by Machiko. Underneath that was another package which when opened revealed an onionskin envelope containing some mat board that had a little window cut in the center with a red tongue of paper attached–it reminded me of the advent calendars of my youth. Koichiro instructed me to open the little window and inside was a perfect, tiny platinum print of one his extraordinary photographs. I was so touched and shared with him that just the day before I had thought to myself that one day I would own a Koichiro Kurita (he is an amazing artist collected worldwide, with a photo in the Tate Museum in London). Now my year was looking up.

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This past week I made a point of engaging in all of the activities I wish to focus on in 2016. I roasted a chicken and later made soup; today I will bake some homemade granola. I walked, read, took and edited photos. I opened an instagram account–you can find me under linnoline. I ordered some canvas as I am all set to start painting again (yes!). I wrote (Click here for my latest post for CURE), made plans to get together with some of my lung cancer peeps, and began preparation for my next advocacy venture (DC in March with the American Lung Association). I participated in open studios with my vintage clothing shop–soon I will have an instagram account for that as well. On my to do list–yoga and maybe a gym membership–I’m not going to take this cancer thing lying down.

But back to covers–a highly anticipated book is about to be released–When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Dr. Kalanithi was a young neurosurgeon with a gift for words who sadly contracted lung cancer. In the months after his diagnosis he devoted a great deal of time to working on his autobiography. After Paul passed away his wife Lucy, a physician as well, helped bring his book to completion. She also penned a poignant essay about love and grief for the New York Times that brought me to my knees. It is uncommon to have the perspective of patient and physician in one telling, and although I am certain it is going to be a really difficult book to read, I plan to do so.

The underscore

After reading the post about losing my friend Ginger, another friend of mine commented that ‘her long time in remission has to be a triumph of its own’. Well yes, absolutely. And it made me realize that I left out one of the most remarkable aspects of Ginger’s story. Just prior to her diagnosis, Ginger, recently divorced, had travelled to Israel and met the man who would become her second husband. Post diagnosis, she experienced almost a second lifetime, one very full of joy. When I met her she was recently widowed and embarking on yet another chapter.

Ginger’s life was inspirational/aspirational for me. And although the details differed, she provided me with a role model of what could be if I only had the courage to really go for it.

I’m not talking about cancer here, but rather my divorce. It’s not an experience that I’ve shared very much about but it was hands down one of the bravest things I’ve ever done.

When I tell people I am recently divorced they say they are sorry. Well, I’m not. It requires a lot of hope, faith and optimism to start over when you have cancer, but it was something that needed to happen and honestly, if I was strong enough to do this, I can do anything.

I gained so much from my friendship with Ginger and I shall miss her so, so much. My last email from her was a month ago and it sort of captures the essence of our friendship—a little bit of cancer, a whole lot of caring:

I saw you all over the Globe. Good article, but you are so much better in person! 🙂
Good luck to Peter!
I went in for chemo yesterday and they sent me home- too weakened. But I will try to build myself up again. It’s partially the blasted antibiotic until next Sat. Just went down on the bicycle. Have to try.
Have you tried a dating site yet?
Much love back, g

____________ ❤

 

Love story

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.

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Dr. Alice Shaw (thank you MGH The One Hundred)

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

 

I don’t even know where to start


I decided several days ago that I would no longer complain (as in, I’m over it). So I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to where a complaint ends and an explanation begins. If that makes sense.

Let me try to explain.

One definition of complaint is:  ‘a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable’.

This has been a difficult (scratch that…sounds a little complaint-ish)—this has been a challenging year. Learning to live alone again, the death of my mother, our (ongoing) divorce, managing my cancer and the side effects of treatment.

However, (and this is why I am absolutely determined to abstain from whining/complaining), I am alive.

Remarkable, really. In fact, I am coming up on the ten year anniversary of my diagnosis with non-small cell lung cancer.

It’s been an amazing decade—packed with experiences I didn’t think I was going to have. I am beyond grateful.

However, you can’t be in treatment for cancer that long without a bit of collateral damage. I told Dr. Shaw some months ago that I felt like someone who had done a lot of hard drugs. Her response? “You are someone who has done a lot of hard drugs.”

Which brings me to my explanation (not complaint). Words don’t come as easily to me as they once did. I speak more slowly and I think more slowly as well. I have difficulty remembering things and impaired memory is now listed as a condition on my medical chart. The combination of forgetfulness and inability to focus means that it takes me much longer to accomplish even seemingly simple tasks.

So I have put off writing.

Really, it’s rather ridiculous. Writing is probably exactly the thing my brain needs most right now and goodness knows I’ve missed all of you. And besides, sometimes it’s just a matter of mindset. Oh man, I really need to update my blog and it’s stressing me out is switching it up to I’M ALIVE AND READY TO WRITE ANOTHER DAY!

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JUST SAY IT!