Patient’s Corner


I Was Unprepared for a Diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Jeff Dunn, PhD, AO  /  May 25, 2023

The irony is not missed on me. In August 2022, 2 months before I was to start my tenure as President of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), I was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma. My entire career over the past 30 years has been in the pursuit of improving global cancer control and...

Lung Cancer

An Incidental Finding of Cancer Likely Saved My Life

Debra Bowler, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2023

Except for a ganglion cyst that had mysteriously popped up on the palm of my right hand in the winter of 2016, I appeared to be in excellent health. I had never had any serious illnesses in my then 55 years and rarely even got colds. If the annoying cyst hadn’t interfered with my normal daily routin...

Breast Cancer
Pancreatic Cancer

I’m BRCA-Positive and Survived Both Breast and Pancreatic Cancers


Cancer has stalked my family for generations. My mother, brother, and maternal uncle were diagnosed with melanoma. Fortunately, all survived. When my sister was diagnosed with early-stage invasive ductal carcinoma in 2010, she underwent genetic testing, which showed she was positive for the BRCA2 ...

Lung Cancer

Genetics Likely Caused My Small Cell Lung Cancer


When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, in 2007, I asked the physician not to tell me the type, stage, or prognosis. I was about to start nursing school and was aware enough about the disease to know that not many people survived. I’ve since discovered that I had stage 3B small cell lung cancer, wh...

Solid Tumors

I Haven’t Known a Life Without von Hippel-Lindau Disease

Alexandra Vitale, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2023

Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease has been with me since I was 5 years old, when a benign tumor was found on the optic nerve of my left eye, leaving me blind in that eye. But I didn’t get an official diagnosis of the disease until 2011, when I was 20. By then, it was like a light switch had turned on,...

Lung Cancer

I’m Doing My Part to Erase the Stigma Surrounding Lung Cancer

Lindi Campbell, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2023

Ironically, I received a diagnosis of lung cancer when I was feeling my healthiest. In December 2015, when I was just 51 years old, a routine chest x-ray found a small shadow on the lower lobe of my right lung. Despite being a never-smoker, a regular exerciser, and a healthy eater, my primary care p...

Skin Cancer

Grateful to Be Alive


Although there is no history of cancer in my family, I guess it isn’t surprising that I would develop an  aggressive form of melanoma on my scalp after years of ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. Still, getting  the diagnosis was devastating. I first noticed a small lump on the top of my head...


The Beauty and the Beast of Cancer

Ann Graham, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2023

The most humbling—and fortunate—experience I’ve had since I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma 13 years ago at the age of 43 was being treated in the pediatric wing of a major cancer center in New York City. It is pretty difficult to feel sorry for yourself when you are sitting next to a 14-year-old ad...



Donna Chen, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2023

Soon after my marriage, in 2003, I noticed swelling in the glands around my throat. Although I otherwise felt fine, I went to see my primary care physician for a checkup and a blood test. The results of the test showed that I had an abnormally high number of lymphocytes circulating in my bloodstream...

Lung Cancer

A Serendipitous Ride Along a Highway May Have Saved My Life

Denise Lee, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2022

In 2017, I noticed a roadside billboard touting the benefits of low-dose computed tomography (CT) imaging for lung cancer screening. The message probably saved my life. The public service campaign, called Saved by the Scan from the American Lung Association, included an Internet address where I coul...

Prostate Cancer

I Have the BRCA2 Gene Mutation: Here’s What I’m Doing to Prevent Cancer

Steven Kalister, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 10, 2022

My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1994, when he was just 55 years old. He died 6 years later. The cancer was so aggressive, it took only a few weeks from the time he was diagnosed for the cancer to grow to the size of a softball, and even a radical prostatectomy couldn’t save his life....

Head and Neck Cancer

A Laryngectomy Altered How I See Myself in the World

Bill Brummel, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 25, 2022

There is a 2-decades-long separation between the time I was diagnosed with oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma in 1996 and my laryngectomy in 2016. The surgery was necessary because of the long-term damage to my larynx from the radiation therapy I received. In 1996, I had a low-grade sore throat ...

Lung Cancer

I’ve Had Two Primary Lung Cancers, and They Haven’t Defeated Me

Dorothy Turner, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 10, 2022

I don’t know why I am so susceptible to developing lung cancer. Since 2014, I have been diagnosed with both non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer, each occurring in my right lung. I have also been diagnosed with precancerous colon polyps, which necessitated invasive surgery. ...

Breast Cancer

Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer

Pam Kohl, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 10, 2022

After my first breast cancer diagnosis, in 2010, the odds for a cure were seemingly all weighted in my favor. A routine mammogram screening had picked up a small—less than 1 cm—mass in my right breast, and a tissue biopsy confirmed it was stage I estrogen receptor–positive breast cancer. I had no fa...


An Aggressive Type of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Threatened My Life

Devorah Aschendorf as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 10, 2022

I was just 31 and about to give birth to my fourth child, Yitzchok, when I received a diagnosis of primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma. The news was terrifying and crippling. For months, I had been experiencing shortness of breath, coughing, and a pain in my left shoulder, all of which were ex...

Prostate Cancer

Surviving Advanced Prostate Cancer Has Made Me a More Empathetic Physician

Gary M. Onik, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2022

My diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer 3 years ago was filled with irony. As an interventional radiologist, I have treated hundreds of patients with advanced prostate cancer, and I knew my prognosis wasn’t good. After experiencing some of the common symptoms of the cancer, including voiding proble...

Solid Tumors

Thriving After a Diagnosis of Stage II Anal Cancer

Daniel G. Garza, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 10, 2022

About 7 years ago, I had emergency hernia surgery and soon after began experiencing severe constipation and abdominal bloating. I had started to have minor symptoms leading up to the surgery, but now the pain and exhaustion of trying to have a bowel movement became unbearable. I met with a gastroent...

Multiple Myeloma

CAR T-Cell Therapy Gave Me Back a High-Quality Life

David Wellenstein, MD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2022

A radiologist by training, I knew the minute I saw the results from my chest x-ray that I had multiple myeloma. In 2015, I was semiretired and had just taken up the game of golf. After making a big swing at the ball, I instantly felt pain in my ribs and thought I had either pulled an intercostal mus...

Lung Cancer

Immunotherapy Has Given Me Back My Life

Susan Falbo as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 25, 2022

Hearing the words “You have cancer” is a devastating blow, especially when the biggest health issues you’ve had to contend with over more than 6 decades are common colds and knee and hip replacements. But in 2017, the symptoms I thought were from a lingering summer cold drove me to seek medical atte...


Finding a New Normal After Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma

Aram Demirjian as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 25, 2022

As every patient diagnosed with cancer knows, the disease affects not just your physical well-being, but your emotional well-being, too. I was just 35 years old when I was diagnosed with early-stage classical Hodgkin lymphoma this past summer, and the news came at a time when I was feeling in top ph...

Breast Cancer

Why Are Black Women Still Dying at Higher Rates Than White Women From Breast Cancer?

Rev. Tammie Denyse, MDiv, MCL, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 10, 2022

What is so dismaying to me is that the statistic on survival for Black women with breast cancer has not changed since I was diagnosed with breast cancer 17 years ago. In 2005, Black women were 41% more likely to die of the disease than White women, even though Black women are less likely to be diagn...

Breast Cancer

Having Metastatic Breast Cancer Has Led Me to Focus on What Matters

Reverend Tawana Davis, PhD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 10, 2022

Nothing can really prepare you for cancer, but it helped that I have dedicated my life in service to others as a minister and advocate for social justice and health equity in breast cancer survivorship. Before my own breast cancer diagnosis in 2016, I had spent years as a volunteer for several breas...


I Enrolled in the WISDOM Study and Learned I Am at High Risk for Cancer

Sally Luckett, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2022

I have always been interested in volunteering my services and helping others, so when I got an e-mail asking if I’d like to participate in the WISDOM (Women Informed to Screen Depending on Measures of Risk) study ( I signed on. The study plans to enroll 100,000 diverse women f...

Colorectal Cancer

Grieving the Loss of Sexual Intimacy as a Result of Cancer and Its Treatment

Aaron Martin as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 10, 2022

About 5 years ago, I began experiencing some digestive issues that I initially blamed on the stress from coping with my mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But after 2 weeks of unrelenting symptoms, including abdominal pain, a change in my bowel habits, and rectal bleeding, I saw my primary c...

Breast Cancer

As a Black Woman, I Knew I Had to Advocate for the Best Breast Cancer Care

Shannon Coleman, MA, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 25, 2022

When I got the call from the radiology department telling me I had to come back for a follow-up mammogram right before Christmas of 2020, I wasn’t surprised or initially concerned. I have dense breasts, and my first mammogram 2 years earlier had also detected suspicious areas in one of my breasts th...


After Two Cancer Diagnoses, I’m Grateful for Another Day

Loriana Hernandez-Aldama, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2022

The start of January 2014 was filled with excitement. I was undergoing fertility treatments to have a second child and was living my professional dream. I was a network news anchor and medical news reporter for a national broadcast network. Although I was exhausted from my grueling early morning sch...

Lung Cancer

Cancer Has Made Me a Risk-Taker, and That’s Good

Tiffany Fagnani, RN, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2022

In 2017, I was caring for my brother, who was suffering from respiratory failure due to complications from cerebral palsy, and working full-time as a registered nurse. I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted all the time. I was also losing weight at an alarming rate—more than 70 pounds in just a yea...

Colorectal Cancer

I Don’t Know Why I Got Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer

Diego Davis-Olegário, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2021

Throughout my adolescence and early adulthood, I had been plagued with digestive issues, including bouts of gastritis and constipation, which seemed normal for me and wasn’t too concerning. But by the time I turned 30, in 2015, the acid reflux I had been experiencing became so frequent and uncomfort...

Lung Cancer

I’m Living—and Thriving—With Stage IV Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

Janet Wohlmacher as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 10, 2021

A diagnosis, in 2020, of stage IV adenocarcinoma non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was found accidentally. I was 55 at the time and in the best physical shape of my life. I had spent the previous year and a half on a diet and exercise regimen that had rendered me 35 pounds lighter and feeling healt...


From Cancer Survivor to Citizen Astronaut


When I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of my left femur nearly 20 years ago, I remember telling my parents that I didn’t want to die. The diagnosis was terrifying because all the people I knew who had cancer had passed away, and I thought this cancer would kill me, too. That evening, my dad went onl...

Lung Cancer

The Worst Part of Having Cancer Was the Guilt

Tonie Forster, RN, PMHNP, DNP, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  November 10, 2021

When I was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer in 1992, at age 38, I remember thinking, “I wish I had breast cancer.” Breast cancer elicits such sympathy from people. A diagnosis of small cell lung cancer mainly gets you stern looks of disapproval and disappointment. There is so much stigma attach...

Lung Cancer

Having Stage IV Lung Cancer Has Refocused My Life

Frank Sierawski, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 25, 2021

The first indication I had stage IV lung cancer was a persistent cough during the beginning of the cold-and-flu season in the fall of 2013. I was 35 years old, never smoked, and in otherwise excellent health, so I ignored the cough for several months until I noticed my breathing had also become more...

Overcoming the Stigma of Small Cell Lung Cancer

Carol Tietz, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  October 10, 2021

Since my small cell lung cancer diagnosis in 2010, I’ve had to overcome not just the distress of having a life-threatening disease, but the stigma attached to it as well. I admit that I was a smoker. I was attracted to smoking when I was 16 and saw how “cool” people looked smoking in television and ...

Breast Cancer

Cancer Is Trying to Steal My Body, but I Will Not Allow It to Steal My Joy

Sheila McGlown, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  September 10, 2021

Until I was diagnosed with HER2-positive, estrogen receptor–positive/progesterone receptor–positive de novo metastatic breast cancer in 2009, I didn’t realize that Black women could get the disease. Although my mother died of metastatic breast cancer 5 years earlier when she was 65, she was the only...

Breast Cancer

I’m a Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor, and the Experience Has Been Life-Altering

Terri Coutee, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 25, 2021

Even before my breast cancer diagnosis in early 2002, the year was shaping up to be life-altering for me and my family. We had moved from Seattle to Houston for a new career opportunity for my husband and were just settling into our new home when I felt a pea-sized nodule in my left breast during a ...

Colorectal Cancer

Facing the Trauma of Colorectal Cancer

Danielle Ripley-Burgess as told to Jo Cavallo  /  August 10, 2021

I first noticed blood in my stool when I was in the 8th grade. My mom and I did an Internet search and were relieved to find that the cause was most likely nothing more serious than hemorrhoids, so I put the problem out of my mind. I played volleyball and had an active social life, and the likelihoo...

Breast Cancer

I’m Alive by Sheer Force of Will—and a Lot of Luck

Marie Elaine Price-Lockridge, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 25, 2021

From the moment I felt a searing pain go through my right breast, I had a premonition that something was very wrong. Although I couldn’t feel anything unusual when I did a breast self-exam, I made an appointment with my gynecologist for a more thorough clinical breast exam and a mammogram. Because h...


Being Both a Cancer Provider and a Cancer Survivor Is a Rare Privilege

Raphael E. Pollock, MD, PhD, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  July 10, 2021

Perhaps my 35-year career as a surgical oncologist and researcher specializing in soft-tissue sarcomas should have prepared me to recognize the signs of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) when they first appeared a few days before Christmas in 2016, but it did not. In fact, my symptoms were so vague...

Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Has Taught Me Many Life Lessons

Marci Greenberg Cox, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 25, 2021

In 2016, 2 years before I was diagnosed with stage III estrogen and progesterone receptor–positive, HER2-negative, invasive ductal carcinoma in situ in my left breast, I had felt a mass in my right breast that turned out to be a benign fibroid. When I felt a mass in my left breast one morning while ...

Head and Neck Cancer

I Was Given a ‘Death Sentence’ at Just 17

Morgan Romero, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  June 10, 2021

A minor car accident I had with my mother when I was 17 probably saved my life. We were taken to the hospital for a routine checkup, and a subsequent chest x-ray found multiple nodules on my lungs. I underwent dozens of other imaging and blood tests, and finally, my pediatrician suggested my parents...

Prostate Cancer

Cancer Has Taught Me to Live With Purpose

Mike Armstrong, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  May 25, 2021

I have had two life-threatening cancers over the past 3 decades and can say without equivocation that there is never a good time to get cancer. My first cancer diagnosis happened in 1992, just weeks after I had accepted the position of Chief Executive Officer of Hughes Electronics. The job meant a c...


What You Need to Know About Cancer and the Coronavirus


As a three-time breast cancer survivor, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States this past January, I knew I had to do everything I could to avoid getting the virus. A host of lingering side effects from my surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments have left me with cardiovascular ...

Breast Cancer

Grateful to Be Alive

Liza Marshall, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 25, 2021

Everything about my breast cancer diagnosis, from my presentation to diagnosis, was strange. In the spring of 2006, I was performing my monthly breast self-exam when I felt a hard lump in the upper left quadrant of my left breast. Having lost a good friend to breast cancer 4 years earlier, I was hyp...

Solid Tumors

I’m Living the Life I Was Destined to Have

David Hysong, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  April 10, 2021

At 33, I’m not living the life I had imagined for myself. If cancer hadn’t interrupted my plans, I would be serving in the United States Army Special Forces by now, a profession that was inspired by my father’s career as a military officer and helicopter pilot and one that I had dreamed about since ...

Breast Cancer

I Want to Live Long and I Want to Live Well

Susan Swanson, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  March 25, 2021

I’m a person who doesn’t like uncertainty. I’m also a worrier. So, when my hand kept going to the same spot on the upper part of my left breast near my chest wall, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right, which persisted even after a routine mammography failed to find any susp...

Breast Cancer

I Let Science, Not Emotion, Dictate My Treatment

Karen Peterson, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 25, 2021

I had my first experience with cancer when I was just 3 or 4 years old and complained to my mother that my “tummy hurt.” I was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, the same cancer my 18-month-old brother died of before I was born. I remember being in the hospital for weeks at a time and being known by family...

Prostate Cancer

I Credit Cancer Research With Saving My Life

Retired Col. Gary R. Steele as told to Jo Cavallo  /  February 10, 2021

In December 2015, I thought I was through with cancer. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011 after a routine blood test showed that my prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level was high. I underwent prostatectomy, and although it was clear the cancer had breached the capsule of the prostate, for ...

Breast Cancer

Finding Hope With Cancer

Stephanie Walker, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  January 25, 2021

Sometimes there just is no escaping cancer. I thought I had done everything right. I was diligent about adhering to my annual physical exams, including mammograms, and routinely performed breast self-exams to spot any early changes in my breasts. Still, in the summer of 2015, I was diagnosed with ho...

Colorectal Cancer

My Life of Service to Other Cancer Survivors

Tristana Vásquez, as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 25, 2020

Six months before my diagnosis of metastatic colorectal cancer, in 2016, at age 38, I told my mom, “I feel like I’m dying.” Even though more than 10 specialists I had seen over the previous 8 years for unexplained bouts of abdominal pain and bloating, fatigue, and constipation kept assuring me that ...

Breast Cancer

Staying a Step Ahead of Cancer

Jamil Rivers as told to Jo Cavallo  /  December 10, 2020

When I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2018, my first thought was, I hope my three young children do not lose two parents to cancer. My husband, Ricky, had survived two bouts of cancer, early-stage colorectal cancer and, most recently, stage I kidney cancer. Like Ricky’s two previou...