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Ode to a Friend

  • December 19 2013

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    Ode to a Friend

    I don’t actually recall the first time I met her.  But I had spoken with her on the phone many times, and emailed with her consistently beforehand.  I remember noticing how young she was, and how full of life and hope.  There was no way you could look at her and think she had lung cancer.  But she did, and she turned that diagnosis into a platform for the rest of her life.

    After her diagnosis, she became an enraged and engaged advocate for lung cancer research.  She was surviving, she felt, because she had participated in a clinical trial at a venerable institution, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where she was treated by a world-renowned lung cancer specialist, Dr. David Carbone. Dr. Carbone recognized the power in having someone so young, attractive, and eloquent in her advocating for the research dollars so sorely needed to turn more stories of diagnosis into chapters of survival.  She jumped in with gusto, engaging in research advocacy through Vanderbilt, the National Cancer Institute, and even going so far as to form her own lung cancer research funding philanthropy, the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, with similar-experienced friends and colleagues.

    Never one to take things lying down, she also never gave up in fighting her own disease.  She had multiple surgeries to remove the cancer, endured chemotherapy, and sought out other options.  Once I saw her when she was clearly in pain; she had just received a therapy most would consider well outside the norm – radio-frequency ablation – of the most recent tumor that had popped up in her lung.  She said it felt like she had sunburn on her lung.  I wondered why, when she had just come from that therapy, she was attending the medical conference that I also was.  She didn’t want to miss a beat.  She was that committed to ending the disease, not just for herself, but for everyone who came after her.

    Yesterday I learned that she passed away this weekend. She survived for 12 years past her stage IV non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis.  In that time, she saw her daughters graduate from college and high school, and even danced at one of their weddings!  She continued to work as a nurse, helping other people daily, and contributed so much to the lung cancer advocacy movement.  I don’t think it’s yet sunk in that I won’t see her again, won’t hear her on the phone, won’t have her needling me to do even more than I thought possible from the words generated at her computer. 

    I will miss you greatly, Lori Monroe.  Your memory and your work is etched into my being and that of so many in this field.  We will work on with the hope of having more survivors like you to live, love, and contribute to the world.

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