Lori Monroe died on November 30, 2013 at Vanderbilt Medical Center after a courageous 12-year battle with lung cancer.
Sometimes the impact of a single life is far deeper than the lifetime it occupies. And sometimes a lifetime is too short. In the case of Lori Monroe, both are true. A tireless and selfless advocate for lung cancer patients - including herself - Lori's imprint on all of us will not soon be forgotten.
Lori was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in September 2001, at age 42. Nobody suspected lung cancer because Lori had quit smoking at age 28. While the diagnosis was shocking and devastating, the prognosis was horrifying. Lori, a Registered Nurse, sought a second, third, and even a fourth opinion. Using her own medical knowledge and tenacity, Lori began to advocate for herself in a way that few lung cancer patients could. Her ability to speak the language of medicine was combined with her empathy for all patients. Not only did she push for her own treatment, but she recognized the importance of medical research in the development of new options for lung cancer patients.
Lori became involved as a pioneering patient advocate with the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Lung SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) initiative at Vanderbilt University; NCI's Advocacy Steering Committee; its Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), and its Thoracic Malignancies Steering Committee. She was also a member of the United States Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs Lung Cancer Research Program (LCRP) Integration Panel; and the Lung Cancer Action Network (LungCAN).
Lori developed an insider's knowledge of the key institutions, projects, and personnel in the world of lung cancer research. She leveraged this knowledge, combined with her considerable Southern charm, to address the lack of funding for lung cancer research, along with the stigma endlessly encountered by lung cancer patients. Lori founded Lung Cancer Foundation of America (LCFA) with Kim Norris, a lung cancer widow, and David Sturges, another survivor, in 2007. LCFA's mission is the dramatic improvement in survivorship of lung cancer patients through the funding of transformative science, with the ultimate goal of curing the disease.
Lori's unique combination of smarts and charm is summed up by Paul Bunn, MD, Distinguished Professor, James Dudley Chair in Lung Cancer Research, University of Colorado: "Physicians are not often comfortable communicating with patient advocates, but Lori was one who could break the barriers and set up communications that would actually get things done."
A native of Fairmount, Indiana, Lori was born on October 28, 1958. A graduate of Western Kentucky University, she dedicated her life to serving others as a registered nurse. She enjoyed camping, traveling, and being in Colorado with her daughters. One of her dreams, upon diagnosis, was to see her daughters graduate from high school. Thanks to her tremendous will, Lori saw her daughters graduate from college and recently attended her youngest daughter's wedding.
Lori's hallmarks were many and remarkable - her energy, her passion, and her commitment as well as her incredible warmth, charm, and humor. She will continue to guide and inspire us with her wisdom and as Regina Vidaver, CEO of National Lung Cancer Partnership and a fellow member of the LCRP Integration Panel wrote: "We will work on with the hope of having more survivors like Lori live, love and contribute to the world."