Posts Tagged ‘patient story’

Running to Carry Forth a Father’s Passion to Make a Difference…

The Winship Win the Fight 5K brings together runners and supporters who participate for a wide variety of reasons. Some run to raise awareness for the importance of cancer funding and research, while others participate to honor the legacy of loved ones who are either currently in the fight against cancer, or those who have lost the battle.

Charles Stevens with daughters

Chandra Stephens-Albright & Charlita Stephens-Walker with their father, Charles.

For Chandra Stephens-Albright and Charlita Stephens-Walker, this weekend’s race is extremely important as the sisters prepare to run for a very special person, their father, Charles R. Stephens. “His name was Charles, his legacy is never giving up, and his leadership was, and remains, in raising funds to do good,” said Chandra about her father who passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer in February 2013.

Charles spent his professional career as a fundraising leader, serving in senior development positions at many educational institutions including his alma mater, Morehouse College. Other places of work included Dillard University, Clark College, Clark Atlanta University, Indiana University Center on Philanthropy and The Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He also served as the national campaign director for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).

But Charles’s impact goes far beyond the institutions and organizations for which he served his professional time raising funds. Today, his legacy extends nationally to the individuals who shared his passion for fundraising. As the first African American Chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), a prestigious and international fundraising association, Charles dedicated his life to changing the fundraising industry from the inside out.

A passage from the AFP’s tribute to Charles following his passing captures it all: “Charles’s lifetime passion was to merge philanthropy and diversity (which he saw as nearly the same ideas) and introduce people of diverse backgrounds to the profession he calls ‘inclusive, noble, and worthwhile.’ His efforts changed the way the fundraising community looks at diversity, brought countless women and minorities into the profession and earned him the AFP Chair’s Award for Outstanding Service, an honor that has been granted to less than 20 people since it was instituted in 1982.”

The Chair’s Award was given to Charles during the AFP’s national conference in 2011, which was shortly after Charles had been diagnosed with cancer. Chandra and Charlita accompanied their father to the conference in Chicago, where they learned for the first time the full scope of Charles’s impact on the entire fundraising profession.

“He was a rock star, but to us he had never said so,” said Chandra, a 1985 Emory College alumna. She adds, “My sister and I did not really understand his national contribution until this cancer came along. It is this that establishes the groundwork for our Winship 5K team name – Charles’ Legacy Leaders.”

During his battle with cancer, Charles continued to live life fully by not only continuing to work at his passion, but by taking special vacations and spending quality time with his family, friends and peers.

“I can’t do justice to my father’s spirit with words,” Chandra said. “Not only did he undergo multiple rounds of chemo, but he did so while maintaining his positive spirit and his irrepressible sense of humor. We had two fantastic years to spend with him – years we didn’t think we’d have – in large part due to the fantastic care he got from the team at Winship.”

At the Winship 5K, there is no shortage of inspirational stories like Charles’s to be found. Incredible people like the Stephen sisters are joining in the fight against cancer to honor those who have gone before and made an impact on the world. If you would like to donate to the Winship 5K, contribute to the Charles Legacy Leaders team, or sign-up for the race yourself, please visit our Winship 5K website for more information.

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Why We Run: A New Type of Togetherness

Bari Ellen & Charles RossBari Ellen and Charles Roberts always had a strong marriage. Togetherness was a major goal for the couple, who married in late midlife. Their shared experience of running a restaurant together, traveling together and moving across country to Arizona for a new life adventure strengthened their bond.

Their togetherness took a wayward turn in 2009, however, when the husband and wife were each diagnosed with cancer within two days of one another. Charles had been sick for months, but doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. Bari Ellen, who was feeling great physically, had gone to yet another doctor’s appointment with her husband. Charles suggested to the doctor that perhaps he just had an infection, as his wife seemed to have an infection, too.

“She’s got a lump on her neck. Maybe we both just have an infection,” Charles said.

The doctor took one look at the lump on Bari Ellen’s neck and said, “Make an appointment with the receptionist tomorrow.” It was a good thing that she did.

“They did a biopsy, and the doctor told me I had head and neck cancer and that it was pretty far gone. He said he didn’t know what he could do for me,” Bari Ellen remembered.

Her cancer was staged at 4B and the prognosis was poor. Two days after Bari Ellen received her bad news, lab results for Charlie came back announcing that he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.

“We were in a swirl,” Bari Ellen said. “It just came out of nowhere.”

Within a week, Bari Ellen went to Atlanta at the suggestion of her daughter, who works at Emory, to get a second opinion. Her daughter had told her that maybe the couple could find hope and better news at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

“Once we got to Winship and saw their compassion and dedication and their sense of purpose, we got a sense of purpose and hope, too,” Bari Ellen said. “They gave us an action plan; they didn’t just write me off. We knew we had a fight before us, but we knew we could win it.”

Today, as survivors for four years, the Rosses are retired, enjoying grandchildren, exercising, volunteering and taking care to eat healthfully. They are also running races and this year, both of them are registered for the Winship Win the Fight 5K on October 5th. The couple have formed a team called the Ross Re-Missionaries, and are recruiting as many friends and family members as they can.

“After everything we’ve been through, and after everything they’ve done, I said ‘We’re going to start giving back,’” Bari Ellen said.

The randomness of their diagnoses helps the Rosses to understand the importance of cancer research, which is another reason they strongly support the Winship Win the Fight 5K. All money goes to cancer research at Winship and donors can choose a specific cancer type to which they would like to contribute.

“Our doctors were so phenomenal and did so much for us that we want to do whatever we can,” Bari Ellen said. “They saved our lives.”

The Winship Win the Fight 5K is fast upon us! If you want to run or simply help support other runners like the Roberts, visit the Winship 5K website for more information.

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Two Patients Benefit from Two Alternative Treatment Options for Prostate Cancer

Prostate Cancer Awareness MonthWhen Mike Melton celebrated Prostate Cancer Awareness Month in September, this time, he was a survivor.

Melton was just 51 years old when he heard the words that every man fears: “You have prostate cancer.” As he researched his options for treatment, he was unsatisfied. The most common prostate cancer treatments often were described as invasive, uncomfortable and prone to side effects. But with three children, a wife and a bustling business to run, Melton couldn’t afford to wait.

“As I was doing my research, I noticed that so many men reported having side effects that no man would want, much less someone as young as I am,” says Melton. “Then I came across laser ablation during my online research, and it sounded exactly like what I was looking for because it was less invasive and has few side effects.”

Emory radiologist Sherif Nour, MD, FRCR, is one of a few radiologists nationwide performing a new, more targeted procedure called MRI-guided focal laser ablation to treat prostate cancer. Using a multi-parametric MRI that utilizes four types of sequences to collectively identify the area of the cancerous lesion, Nour can pinpoint the precise location of the tumor to verify that the procedure should take place. Once he locates the tumor, interventional MRI technology is used to selectively target and ablate the tumor while maintaining the integrity of the rest of the prostate gland. According to Nour, when compared to breast cancer in women, this new treatment is equivalent to a “male lumpectomy.”

“The options prostate cancer patients have had in the past are to either have surgery, radiation or whole gland ablation that comes with the risk of undesirable complications or to wait under their doctor’s close observation, which causes considerable stress knowing that they may have untreated cancer,” says Nour, associate professor of radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and director of Emory’s new Interventional MRI Program. “MRI-guided focal laser ablation offers our patients who have had a positive biopsy for prostate cancer a less invasive option with minimal recovery time and fewer side effects.”

Traditionally, patients with suspected prostate cancer often undergo a more invasive form of tumor detection and biopsy that can lead to unpleasant side effects. Patients with confirmed prostate cancer may choose a “watchful waiting” approach, which can lead to anxiety. Traditional forms of treatment, such as prostatectomy or radiation, can in some cases, lead to urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Melton, who was back on the tennis court less than a month after his procedure was the first patient to undergo MRI-guided laser ablation for prostate cancer at Emory. At his three-month check-up, he was declared cancer-free.

“It’s like having a 400-pound elephant sitting on your chest that all of the sudden gets up,” says Melton. “It’s a huge relief. “

Melton is not the only Emory patient benefiting from alternative treatment options for prostate cancer. In the video below, hear from another one of our patients how he found hope and comfort after meeting Dr. Peter Rossi, an Emory radiation oncologist at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and, now, also practicing at Saint Joseph’s Hospital.

The 5-year survival rate for men with prostate cancer found in its early stages is nearly 100 percent. Use this time to remind the men in your life to talk to their doctors about their risk and family history and the appropriate screenings.For more information on prostate cancer treatment options at Emory, please use the linked resources below.

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Cancer Patient Rescues Dog and Is Rescued in Return

Carol Witcher & Floyd Henry

Carol Witcher, breast cancer patient & her dog Floyd

Carol Witcher rescued her dog when he was seven months old, but never imagined that he would rescue her in return. Over two years ago, her dog, Floyd Henry displayed some curious behavior that made Carol worry that something may be seriously wrong.

“When he sniffed me, he kind of turned back and really pushed into my right breast, real hard,” Carol recalls. “He started sniffing, sniffing, sniffing.” Carol adds, “He pushed real hard for one shot…Then he looked at me straight in the face, and began to paw my right breast. And I thought, ‘This is not good.’” After four days of continuous sniffing, nudging and pawing from her 8-year-old boxer, Carol made plans to see a doctor at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University.

It turned out that Carol did in fact have breast cancer that would require treatment with chemotherapy, surgery and then radiation. According to breast surgical oncologist at Winship, Dr. Sheryl Gabram, “Her type of cancer presented as an indistinct  asymmetry in her breast…I absolutely believe the dog saved Miss Witcher’s life.”

Dr. Gabram and Charlene Bayer PhD, a chemist at Georgia Institute of Technology, are no strangers to this type of phenomena. They have been  investigating  cancer patients’ breath in a pilot study involving 20 volunteers with normal mammograms compared to 20 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients. They have found that cancer causes the body to release certain organic compounds and the patterns of these compounds can be detected with mass spectrometry, a device that separates out compounds for analysis. It is possible that dogs can smell these compounds but people cannot. Ultimately, Drs. Gabram and Bayer hope that this simple breath test could lead to a means to alert physicians in the office that a patient may have an underlying breast cancer. And in Carol Witcher’s case, quite possibly it did.

As Gabram notes, in the study that Miss Witcher was involved in prior to her treatment, “Our model predicted  more than 75 percent of the time correctly which patients did have breast cancer and which ones did not.” This study will be published in early June in the American Surgeon.

ABC News recently covered Carol’s story and discussed previous situations in which the combination of a person’s breath and a dog’s sense of smell led to accurate cancer diagnoses. According to the ABC News story, “In January, a study published in the British journal Gut said that a specially-trained 8-year-old black Labrador retriever named Marine had detected colorectal cancer 91 percent of the time when sniffing patients’ breath, and 97 percent of the time when sniffing stool.” They add that “Dogs have also reportedly sniffed out skin, bladder, lung and ovarian cancers.”
While they might not be able to pinpoint or vocalize what are wrong, canines have demonstrated that they are able to determine that something is wrong.

We will keep you posted on the latest developments in the breath diagnostic work of the team at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Georgia’s only NCI-designated cancer center, and the Georgia Institute of Technology.  In the meantime, you can learn more about Carol’s story by checking out the ABC News video here.