Jason, Arabella, Charlotte, and I are participating in the 2022 Jimmy Fund Half Marathon Walk to thank the extraordinary research and care leaders at Dana- Farber Cancer Center, and to honor my mom, 'Grandma Janet', who is a patient at Dana-Farber.
I want to share why Dana-Farber is so important to my family, but first, here are some things you should know about my mom...
- She was born and raised in Southern California.
- Since I was a little girl, she has enjoyed walking for exercise everyday. Most days she would walk 6 miles, down the beach.
- My dad died suddenly when I was 3 years old, and my brother was 7. My mom never remarried.
- After my dad died, my mom went back to school to study Nutrition, and began working as a Diet Technician in a hospital.
- My mom loves eating healthy! I think her favorite food is probably salad :).
- My mom has never smoked and rarely drinks, so her lung cancer diagnosis was a big surprise.
- We discovered her lung cancer in 2017 when she experienced a heart condition. During a scan to see the status of her heart, a spot on her lung was identified. A couple of years before this diagnosis, my mom had moved to Northern CA to help my brother and his family. Medical care in her new town was limited.
- My mom had a lobectomy to remove the cancer in January 2018.
- About a year after her surgery, more lung tumors were discovered and she began taking Tagrisso, a special oral targeted therapy that corrects her particular type of mutation (EGFR).
- Tagrisso helped to stop the spread of my mom's lung cancer, and has even healed several of the areas of tumor growth.
- In summer 2021, my mom suffered a minor stroke. At first, we didn't realize it was a stroke, and we thought her symptoms may be a result of brain cancer.
- As a result of her stroke, my mom's balance was compromised and she fell and broke her hip this past February. While my mom's hip was healing, her general health began declining rapidly.
- We decided to relocate her to Massachusetts so I could care for her, and so she could be close to better medical care.
- We set my mom up with local doctors, including oncologists at Dana-Farber. When we described her symptoms, doctors took a scan of her brain and identified Leptomenigial Disease in her brain, a type of brain cancer that spreads through the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord.
- Dana-Farber doctors prescribed a double-dose of Tagrisso to treat her metastasis. When Tagrisso is doubled for patients with an EGFR mutation, it often has the ability to break the brain-blood barrier and can improve cancer in the brain.
- After one month on the increased dosage, we returned to Dana-Farber for a follow-up, and incredibly, my mom's brain cancer was significantly reduced!!!!!
Every time my mom and I walk into Dana-Farber we know we are in the most capable of hands. Doctors look you in the eye, listen -- really hear you out, eager to fully understand how you are so they have a complete picture of every aspect of their patient -- physically, emotionally, mentally. With every interaction we have at Dana-Farber, from the schedulers, to the person who draws blood, to the cafeteria workers, patient care is central. We've had doctors, who are carrying their lunch, take time to step out of the elevator, and walk us down the hall when we were trying to find a new location in the building. When my mom was paying over $10,000/year for her medication, Dana-Farber stepped in and helped her to get her medication fully covered. I could go on...we feel seen, heard, and embraced by Dana-Farber.
My mom's cancer journey is far from over and we do not know how long Tagrisso will continue to help (her cancer may mutate and Tagrisso would no long be effective). Due to the combined effects of her stroke and cancer, she remains frail, using a walker. She isn't able to walk her beloved dog, Sugar, or exercise anymore. She is, however, able to spend time with her friends and family, and enjoy the company of Sugar. She is still able to come see her granddaughters perform in their theatrical productions, and piano recitals. She is able to watch the boats in the harbor of her new town, Hingham, MA. She is able to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, which are often the greatest gifts. We are so incredibly grateful to have this time with her, and I feel privileged to care for her as she moves through this next stage of her life. Without the care and support of Dana-Farber, these gifts would not be possible. We are eternally grateful for having the support of their world-class institution nearby.
When you make a gift to my Walk, you’re directly supporting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s unique 50-50 balance between cutting-edge research and compassionate patient care. Your support allows Dana-Farber leaders to enhance programs and initiatives that serve pediatric and adult patients and their families.
Thank you for supporting my Jimmy Fund Walk fundraising efforts. Go Team Grandma Janet!
- Shana, Jason, Arabella, and Charlotte