An Update from Friends

CURE, Winter 2010, Volume 9, Issue 4

CURE hears from survivors and caregivers featured in past issues and shares how their lives have changed.

From the Spring 2010 feature “Lung Overdue,” Mark Bailey continues to fight his adenocarcinoma with Tarceva (erlotinib). Although Bailey has a particular genetic profile that made him unable to participate in the clinical trial mentioned in the article, he says his current scans are good and there are no recent brain metastases.

For six months, CURE editor-at-large Kathy LaTour met with Judy Abernathy and her family and documented her journey through the final stages of non-small cell lung cancer. The resulting article, “The Final Journey” was featured in CURE in Spring of 2009. Two years after her passing, Judy's daughter, Christy Green, says the family is doing well and moving forward, always with their beloved mother, grandmother and and wife on their minds.

“We can all at least laugh now and remember the good times without just busting out in tears. It's not like she's off my mind,” Green says. Richard, Judy's former husband, suffered a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery in March 2009, five months after her death. Green says that just before he entered the operating room for the surgery, a nurse with gray hair entered the room. When the family read her name tag that said “Judy,” Green says they all suddenly felt OK.

“I told him 'You're going to be just fine. Mom is here with you.'” Richard now has an implanted defibrillator and is doing well, tackling projects around the house to keep busy.

Green's daughter, Heather, 22, recently graduated from college with honors and is planning on attending law school. Green says that Heather remembers her grandmother by writing down her thoughts and memories. Brandon, 15, Green's oldest son, recently got his learner's permit to drive and wishes he could take his late grandmother driving. However, he keeps her memory alive in the kitchen. Green says his specialty is spaghetti with homemade sauce, the first thing Judy taught him to cook. Nine-year-old Ethan was the closest to Judy and cherishes the pictures he made with his grandmother. Like Heather, Ethan also continues to write down his thoughts about Judy.

Suzanne Lindley, has not slowed down since CURE featured her battle with metastatic cancer in the Summer issue's “Living on the Edge” article. Since then, Lindley, 43, has had a birthday and a 24th wedding anniversary with her husband Ronnie, and they have added a member to the family. On July 19, they adopted 2-year-old Chloe, who was formerly their foster child.

Lindley has organized several liver cancer symposiums across the country, offering treatment advice and support to physicians and survivors of liver cancer. So far, the attendance has far exceeded Lindley's expectations.

“It makes you realized there are so many people out there who have liver cancer and liver metastases,” Lindley says. Through her organization, YES, Lindley has also organized the “Speedways deLIVER Hope” campaign. Race fans can bid on luxury suite tickets to NASCAR races, and all proceeds go to support for those affected by liver tumors. YES has received advertising and promotion in many major sports programs and will be featured in the World Series programs. “We're just a shoestring organization, and to have the support and backing has just been really incredible,” Lindley says.

Despite maintaining a schedule that would exhaust even the healthiest of people, Lindley's health is good. “My tumors are stable for the first time in a long time,” Lindley says. She is currently on a chemo break, and she and her doctors have been mixing and matching treatments.

Jasan Zimmerman wrote the essay “When Do I Tell Her?” about revealing medical history to significant others as the Spring 2009 issue's Readers Forum. Though the relationship mentioned at the end of the essay did not work out, Zimmerman has not lost hope. He says he tends to reveal his medical history earlier in a relationship than he previously did.

“I'll tend to tell the story a lot sooner rather than later just to kind of get it out there and have everything on the table,” Zimmerman says. He now refers his dates to the published essay, saying that it is easier for them to read his medical history and his thoughts on the issue rather than putting it into words every time.

Since the publication, Zimmerman has added only a sinus surgery to his impressive list of medical procedures. His advice to others on revealing medical history is to reveal it as soon as possible, but to be nonchalant about it.

“Spin it in a positive way,” Zimmerman says. “Come to terms with being sick and make it positive, not 'I'm really messed up.' ”

Marc Benner, who was featured in our “Reining in Renal Cancer” article in the Summer 2009 issue, died from the disease Dec. 4, 2010. After his diagnosis of stage 4 renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer, in late 2007, Benner had “hitchhiked” on a number of recently approved drugs. Unfortunately, in August, imaging scans showed an inoperable tumor above his hip, which led his oncologist to recommend a clinic trial. In September, scans found small lesions on his brain, which were treated with radiation. Afterward, he began another newly approved treatment, Votrient (pazopanib), to battle the metastatic cancer.

CURE

“The side effects of the radiation were just too much for his already declining health,” says his girlfriend, Teresa Morris. Marc entered hospice on Dec. 2 and died the morning of Dec. 4 surrounded by family and friends. Morris says Marc had wanted to update on his progress. “I am doing it to honor him and to hopefully educate others,” she says.

Since January, Bailey has become a globetrotter. He has sailed around Fiji, climbed mountains in New Zealand, skydived into Aruba, zip-lined through Costa Rica and dined with his parents in France and Germany. When he is in the United States, Bailey continues to substitute teach in Columbus, Ohio and keeps up with his children, ages 10, 6 and 4.

“I have to stay positive. One day they're gonna find a cure and I hope to be around when they find it,” Bailey says.