Turning 10

CURESpring 2012
Volume 11
Issue 1

A photo essay featuring people CURE profiled during its first year.

In this photo essay, we catch up with six people whose stories helped make cancer understandable to our readers during CURE’s first year of publication, 2002. Cancer served as the defining moment in each life, clarifying a mission or providing the inspiration to reach a goal. For each, the past decade has been a time to resume life, to rethink directions and to watch dreams come true.

In January 2002, Doris Lemonier, a 51-year-old elementary school French teacher in Lake Charles, La., received a breast cancer diagnosis. When her doctor recommended a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Lemonier sought counsel from family. “My colleagues are my family,” Lemonier says today, still teaching elementary French at T.S. Cooley Elementary Magnet School in Lake Charles. “My principal and I started on the same day in 1996 and had become close friends. She said I should go to M.D. Anderson.”

Lemonier, a single mother of three grown children, wanted to do everything she could to ensure more time to enjoy her three grandchildren, so she took part in a clinical trial that added a new drug called Herceptin (trastuzumab) to her chemotherapy. > By April, the doctor told her that her tumor was 99 percent gone. She finished chemotherapy in July and had a mastectomy in August.

For Lemonier, who is now cancer-free, it has been a decade of enjoying family—her grandchildren, who now number eight—and her colleagues.

For more than 25 years, Susan Nessim-Keeney has dedicated her life to Cancervive, one of the first support organizations for young people, founded in 1985 by Keeney to help cope with the isolation she felt after her diagnosis of soft tissue sarcoma in her thigh in 1974. She was featured in the 2002 winter issue of CURE in a reprint from Here & Now: Inspiring Stories of Cancer Survivors, a book about young survivors by Heidi Schultz Adams and Elena Dorfman.

Keeney says Cancervive prepared her for the latest phase of her life, as a founder of Capture Life Media.

“When I went to pharmaceutical companies to fund educational materials for Cancervive, I found that what was available was lacking, so I began producing educational materials for patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.”

Keeney is looking for ways to license the educational materials she developed through Cancervive to other nonprofits as she prepares to close the organization and move on to the next phase of her life.

A decade ago, there was little to celebrate in prostate cancer treatment, says Oliver Sartor, MD. “At that time, we didn’t have any agents that prolonged survival. Now we have six different drugs that have been shown to prolong survival in large randomized trials.”

Sartor, the C.E. and Bernadine Laborde Professor of Cancer Research in the departments of medicine and urology at Tulane University in New Orleans, was lead author on studies for two of the drugs approved by the FDA, a remarkable experience for a researcher, he says.

Although prostate research moved forward during this time, life in New Orleans came to a halt in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit, devastating the city and its occupants. Sartor says his patients, some still in treatment, fled to 13 different states after the hurricane. Luckily, he says, he had many of their medical records in his head.

“I could remember most cases, but not all.” Sartor had given his cell phone number to most of his patients, and when they called, he told them to find a medical oncologist where they were and have the physician call him.

Fortunately for Sartor, his own 19th-century New Orleans home had only minor damage, positioned as it was in one of the higher neighborhoods built before flood control.

During the past decade, Susan Leigh, BSN, RN, has watched a dream come true as the national cancer community has embraced survivorship care for cancer patients.

Leigh, one of the early proponents of this evolving field and a founding member of the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS), has been working toward the acceptance of survivorship issues for more than 25 years. As a three-time cancer survivor and an oncology nurse, she has used her own experiences to advocate for the long-term and late effects of cancer and its therapies.

After her initial treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma in 1972, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1990, most likely resulting from radiation treatment for her lymphoma. Then, in 1995, it was accidently discovered that she had early-stage bladder cancer. Fortunately, all were caught early and treated successfully.

She has been instrumental in the development of survivorship materials and research for the National Cancer Institute, the Oncology Nursing Society and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, among others.

Our readers saw new parents Brad Zebrack, PhD, and his wife, Joanne Kelleher, holding their adopted daughter, Sierra, in an article focusing on information about fertility for young cancer patients. Zebrack was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 1986 at 25. Because he was told the treatment would probably result in infertility, he decided to bank sperm.

Suggesting sperm banking as the answer to infertility is like saying that chemotherapy cures cancer,” Zebrack says. “There is an element of truth, but the reality is far more complex.”

Seven years later, Zebrack and Kelleher began trying to have a child, a process that he says left him feeling guilty and angry at cancer for all he and his wife had to endure only to be unsuccessful. At the time, Zebrack was in a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he researched issues of young adult survivors and childhood cancer survivors.

Today, Sierra is almost 10, and Zebrack is an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he is in the unique position of researching and speaking on areas of survivorship that he experienced personally.

Dallas therapist Clare Buie Chaney, PhD, wrote about her battle with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and the long-term and late effects she has experienced as a result of the only curative treatment available at the time of her diagnosis, bone marrow transplantation.

Chaney received her diagnosis at age 34 in 1987 when her sons Clark and Brent were ages 1 and 4.

Now 25 and 28, both sons are in Dallas, one finishing an MBA and the other working.

Chaney remains on the verge of cataract surgery and practices Pilates and yoga to strengthen the muscles around her knees to further delay knee replacements, both late effects of treatment.

But she has continued to grow her counseling practice, half of which is composed of cancer survivors whom Chaney helps find the new normal.

Survivors feel relief when a treatment is found that is easier than what they experienced, and, for Chaney, that time came when the FDA approved Gleevec (imatinib) in 2001. Taken as a daily pill, Gleevec stops CML in its tracks with few of the side effects of the bone marrow transplantation that Chaney endured.