In the summer of 2005, I experienced three of life’s greatest stressors: moving from Pennsylvania to Florida, changing jobs, and receiving a devastating diagnosis—all within 1 month. I was very content with my life in the Pittsburgh area. I loved my teaching job and had (still have) many friends there, but a little voice kept whispering that I needed to accept this job offer. So, off to Florida I went, leaving my comfort zone of friends, family, and job.
I was required to have a physical as part of the hiring process for my new teaching position, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting in a doctor’s office being scheduled for a lung resection. My head was still spinning from hearing the words, “You have lung cancer,” and all I was hearing was, “Blah, blah, blah cancer…blah, blah, blah operation.” I remember saying, “How can I have lung cancer? I never smoked.” After the operation and six rounds of chemo, all was well until the summer of 2009, when my doctors discovered that the lung cancer had metastasized to my liver, where it resides to this day. I became and remain, to this day, a stage 4 lung cancer patient.
Thanks to my very supportive school principal, who adjusted my schedule to accommodate my treatments, I continued to teach school throughout those years and only retired in 2016 because it became too difficult to continue to work when I began my fourth clinical trial.
In 2014, Katie Brown from LUNGevity referred me as a consumer reviewer for the Lung Cancer Research Program, a role that gives me tremendous satisfaction. It is incredibly gratifying to play a role in helping to determine which research proposals might qualify for federal funding. It is especially exciting to see proposals that I reviewed develop into projects that impact patients, like clinical trials and/or Food and Drug Administration approvals. Reviewing and rating these proposals gives me purpose, and I find it to be extremely rewarding.