Lung Cancer Foundation of America is sharing these 5 Stories of Mothers Living with Lung Cancer 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 advocates Brandy, Annabelle, Terri, and Patty – with a special nod to lung cancer researcher-mom, Dr. Alice Berger.
Brandi Bryant: Mother of 4 and Fierce Lung Cancer Advocate
Brandi Bryant is a mom of 4 who is #LivingWithLungCancer. She credits the discovery of her ALK biomarker and the targeted treatment it offers her for keeping her disease in check. Brandi’s wish is to see her kids grow up, graduate from high school and college and, maybe, get married and have kids of their own. Because of lung cancer research, Brandi’s hopes are possible. Even just a few years ago, there were not options for treatments of the type that Brandi takes.
“Research to me is hope. Like in big capital letters – Research is HOPE. Research has me sitting here today. Research will hopefully have me sitting here and #GiveMe20. Give me 20 years post-diagnosis. I am confident that the the things that these researchers are working on especially the ones that are funded by Lung Cancer Foundation of America. I’m excited – and I’m excited that I’ll get to see all of my kids graduate from high school and college. I just want to be there like my mom has been able to be there for me.”
Annabelle Gurwitch: Actress, Author, Advocate Mom After Surprise Diagnosis
Annabelle credits Ezra, who reinforced her seeing a doctor during the pandemic with “Mom, you really do have a cough.”
Thinking it was Covid, Annabelle’s story of an accidental lung cancer diagnosis is a very common story among lung cancer patients.
“… because I get to have the life I’m having right now because of the drugs that were developed in the last five years. I happen to have the EGFR mutation, which responds to a medication that allows me to continue a pretty normal life, except for the extra napping.”
Getting an accurate diagnosis set her on a treatment course that is manageable as well as saving her life. Annabelle recognizes that lung cancer research is a key reason her lung cancer diagnosis came with hope.
Terri Conneran: Kicking Cancer’s KRAS
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. “
Patty Watkins: Mother & Grandmother’s Determined Lung Cancer Fight
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.
Dr. Alice Berger: Professor, Mentor, Award-winning Scientist, and Mother of 3
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.
Remembering Mothers We Lost Too Soon
If you’ve lost your mom to lung cancer, we’d like to extend our deepest sympathies and support. We know the pain of losing a loved one is deep, and we understand that grief can be all-encompassing.