5 Lung Cancer Mother’s Day Stories

Lung Cancer Foundation of America is sharing these 5 Lung Cancer Stories in honor of Mother’s Day – sharing hope with their family, celebrating life-saving new treatments, and advocating for much-needed funding for continuing lung cancer research. Read about lung cancer patient advocate/patients Gina, Terri, Tabitha, and Patty in addition to researcher-mom, Dr. Alice Berger.

Number 1

Gina Hollenbeck: Mother of 2 and Fierce Lung Cancer Advocate

This 38-year-old mother of two was the picture of health. She played competitive tennis, competed in half marathons, ate an organic vegetarian diet, and worked as a nurse running two medical clinics. Gina never considered that her nagging cough, sore throat, and shoulder pain were caused by lung cancer. On October 28, 2015, her oncologist diagnosed Gina with Stage 4 ALK positive lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain.

“I don’t have a choice about cancer, but I do have a choice about how I am going to react. I am going to live every single moment to the absolute fullest.”

Thanks to research more people are living with lung cancer.

In honor of mothers like Gina

Number 2

Terri Conneran: Kicking Cancer’s KRAS

Terri with her husband and the mother of three adult children

Terri Conneran was diagnosed in 2017, years before the first FDA approved precision treatment for her specific biomarker, KRAS. But, thanks to research, there were other effective treatments that help Terri live with lung cancer. Now she is a resource for other lung cancer patients when she is not in the middle of remodeling her kitchen, growing veggies in her garden, and hosting her annual Fantasy Football Draft with her very competitive family.

“Those of us in the lung cancer community are living with this silent disease growing within us and we need to give it a voice. If I can help one person, my goal is met.”

When she was first diagnosed, Terri went to look for a group of lung cancer patients with the same biomarker she has. When she didn’t find one, Terri took on the task of organizing the KRAS-Kickers herself.

“I wanted to kick cancers kRas, so I founded the KrasKickers to unite us in the crusade for a lung cancer cure. “

Thanks to research more people are living with lung cancer.

In honor of mothers like Terri

Number 3

Tabitha Paccione: Mom Beats Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma

“I feel really lucky. Having lung cancer has completely changed my life: not because of the inconvenience or being sick – that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It has been the best thing because I am so much more grateful, so much more appreciative of life. Before all this, I wasn’t on the right path – competitive, complained a lot, and unhappy for no reason. Now I don’t sweat the small stuff and truly enjoy every moment. I focus on compassion and forgiveness.”

Tabitha’s lung cancer detection involved a “series of little miracles” which included biomarker testing. Tabitha, a 35-year-old working mother of two, had Stage 4 adenocarcinoma, 29 brain metastases, and the ALK+ mutation. She began IV chemotherapy, then oral medication. Followed up with stereotactic brain radiation, Tabitha is currently in remission. Her last three rounds of scans came back clear.

Thanks to research more people are living with lung cancer.

In honor of mothers like Tabitha

Number 4

Patty Watkins: Mother & Grandmother’s Determined Lung Cancer Fight

Patty with grandson

In 2014, Patty, aged 57 and never having smoked, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer and told she had just days to live. Determined to fight like hell, Patty promised be at her son’s college graduation in May. And, against all odds – she was there.

After biomarker testing determining ROS1 positive lung cancer. Patty started a life-saving targeted therapy and participated in a clinical trial. Within six months, every tumor in her brain was gone.

“I don’t know if I would be here if that doctor hadn’t suggested hospice. When he said that, the human spirit soared and the ‘oh, hell no’ attitude kicked in. Kent and I worked too hard to see our kids do well and I was going to be there to enjoy it. Everyone is fighting a battle of some sort…mine’s no worse than anyone else’s.”

Since her diagnosis, Patty has seen much joy – her son Harris graduated from college and got married in 2017. As a new grandmother, she’s enjoying grandson Chase.

Thanks to research more people are living with lung cancer.

In honor of mothers like Patty

Number 5

Dr. Alice Berger: Professor, Mentor, Award-winning Scientist, and Mother of 3

Dr. Alice Berger

LCFA is proud to award significant grants over the years which enable young female researchers the opportunity to make new discoveries about lung cancer – the leading cause of death in women. Meet Alice Berger, one of our team of LCFA-funded lung cancer researchers.

While pursuing her PhD, her post doctoral studies and beginning a faculty position at The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, Dr. Berger gave birth to three children.

“I was really self conscious about starting my post doc studies with an infant in tow, but my husband – always a staunch ally – reminded me that, if anything, it showed that I cared more and I was showing up. From that point forward, I had no second thoughts. My message to young women is that they can do it…and having a supportive partner really helps.”

As a recipient of an LCFA Young Investigator Award, Dr. Berger earned a $200,000 grant to pursue her lung cancer research. She is working with her team to gain a better understanding of the genetic factors inherited within families as well as patterns of disease in non-smokers, all with the goal of understanding risk factors and mutations consistent with a lung cancer diagnosis.

Recently Dr Berger was selected to receive a MERIT grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that will continue funding her research for 7 more years. Her 2017 LCFA Young Investigator grant was used to set her first lab. And now she will continue her work to find new treatments for lung cancer patients.

Thanks to research more people are living with lung cancer.

In honor of mothers like Alice

Read more inspirational stories of lung cancer survivors

New and life-saving treatments, along with clinical trials, are happening rapidly. Read more about people living with lung cancer.

Undergoing treatment? Persist! Get a second opinion. Get your tumor tested, see if you qualify for targeted therapy,  immunotherapy or a clinical trial.

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