DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Norm Saunders

Photos and text used with permission of
Mr. Norm Saunders.

I was diagnosed with Stage III cancer of the right lung in July 2012. The diagnosis was a surprise and complete shock, as I was an athlete in excellent shape and asymptomatic. I had smoked but had quit at least 40 years before my diagnosis. I was ignorant of the methods of diagnosing and treating lung cancer; as a matter of fact, both my wife and I were ignorant of all the myriad of details surrounding types, diagnoses, treatments, life after cancer, life with cancer, etc. My treatment was administered by Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and I have been in remission since my treatment completion in 2013.

My medical oncologist had been involved in the CDMRP cancer programs and contacted me to gauge my interest in service as a consumer reviewer. I had learned of the relative scarcity of money for lung cancer research since my diagnosis and was excited to have an opportunity to contribute, in some small way, and influence the research from the perspective of the patient. I also hoped to represent military Service members and families affected by lung cancer, as I am retired military myself.

The review of grant proposals was a daunting process, but made easier by the scientist assigned to guide us as well as my consumer reviewer mentor, who had done the work before. Once I read several proposals, I formed my own opinions of the value of the proposed research from my perspective as a patient and the views of other patients I have come to know since my own treatment. My experience in a lung cancer support group that my wife and I attend has proven invaluable as I evaluate the proposals.

The true value of the consumer reviewer is as part of the in-person review meeting. The physicians and scientists reviewing proposals for feasibility and utility were often lacking the perspective of patients and families, especially military members and their families. The opinions expressed by consumer reviewers were valued and respected by the professional reviewers. The resulting unfettered discussions about the relative merits of the proposals were very helpful in the final sorting process. My involvement as a reviewer has left me satisfied that the proposals with the most merit were recommended for funding but frustrated that the money available to support this crucial work is woefully inadequate. I would be delighted to be involved in this process again.

Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016