There are really two ideas driving our “Everyday Amazing” theme. The first – that every single day is truly a gift and that even the seemingly mundane tasks of daily life can take on extra significance if we slow down and appreciate them. The second – that every single day here at the Mass General Cancer Center we all (from patients to healthcare professionals to staff) have the chance, together, to do something pretty amazing.
Sometimes that amazing thing is innovative technology like the proton beam or targeted therapies … but sometimes that amazing thing is as simple as a warm word or a helping hand. Ultimately, that’s why we are all here: to make sure that amazing happens every day.
Athletic. Healthy eater. Non-smoker. At 57, Greg’s lifestyle profile read like every doctor’s recommendation for good health. When he developed a respiratory ailment that lingered, Greg and his doctors were stunned to learn that the model patient had stage-4 lung cancer.
When Greg was diagnosed, his doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center were having success identifying and treating a particular type of lung cancer mutation: EGFR. Greg’s lung cancer tested positive for the EGFR mutation, and he became the first patient at Mass General enrolled in the first ever clinical trial to target his mutation as a first line of therapy. He began taking a medicine designed to attack the mutation in his tumor that was driving his cancer. “I didn’t have any hesitancy about starting a clinical trial,” said Greg. “I guess I just had so much confidence in Mass General and in my doctors that I believed it had to be the best option.”
Nine years later, Greg’s optimism has paid off. Within days of starting the trial, his chronic cough and fatigue began to ease. More importantly, the tumors in both of his lungs began shrinking. Literally and figuratively, Greg was able to breathe easy again.
“My future was totally unknown before,” Greg notes. “It still has an element of the unknown, but I couldn’t be happier with where I am. It has not inhibited me from enjoying the things I love in life and as long as it can continue, it will be a perfect outcome”.
Lecia Sequist, MD, is Greg's physician at the Mass General Cancer Center:
“Greg was the first patient enrolled in the first trial of EGFR-targeted therapy at Mass General. What was a very experimental idea at that time is now the standard approach for patients with his type of cancer. I vividly remember the excitement on our team when he started therapy and was feeling better within literally a few days. Greg has been an ongoing inspiration to me by reminding me how much our research can make a difference in people's lives. He sent me an amazing picture of himself and his wife rafting on the Colorado River. I got to hear his band play once - he was super! For me, it's knowing that I had a part in making these every day experiences possible that keeps me working relentlessly to develop more targeted therapies for more types of patients.”
Anne’s story – a successful publishing executive with a young family, suddenly diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2011 – might have turned out very differently. Speaking to ABC news recently, Anne talked about her initial fears that she would lose her battle: “I really believed that I was just one of those people who was going to die young”, she recalls.
Two years later, having been treated with surgery, radiation and targeted therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Anne says “I now catch myself planning, and very earnestly saying 'That will be such a great trip when we’re 80 years old'”.
Anne’s successful treatment is not something she will ever take lightly: “Every morning we wake up and say 'Thank you for this great day – Now let’s go out and work and play'. We just remind each other that every day is something to be thankful for”.
Beverley Moy, MD, is Anne’s physician at Mass General Cancer Center:
“When I first met Anne, I was struck by her youth and vibrance. As a mother of two young children, Anne's primary concern was her kids. At Anne's request, I met her young daughter so that she could have the opportunity to ask me any questions and to allay her fears. I have been so impressed by Anne's strength as she endured multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, a clinical trial, and radiation. Throughout it all, she has maintained a positive and energetic attitude and has placed her family first. Anne has illustrated to me that cancer is a disease that affects the entire family. Anne inspires me to work even harder to conquer breast cancer so that our research can save more lives and keep more families whole.”