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Updated 10:00 AM October 12, 2009
 

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Cancer survivor gives back to research program

When Mary Jo Grand was diagnosed with lung cancer, the diagnosis was grim.

Grand's doctor offered statistics indicating a survival rate of six months to a year.

But then Dr. Gregory Kalemkerian, director of the Lung Cancer Research Program at U-M, gave Grand the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial for people with her type of cancer. Grand, development events manager with the Office of Development at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, decided to join the trial, and made several lifestyle changes to complement the treatment.

Last week Grand celebrated one year since her initial prognosis and is doing well.

After learning how under funded lung cancer research is, Grand was inspired to raise awareness about this disease. She and her family and friends have organized the Breathe Easy 5K Walk & Dine Event to benefit the U-M Lung Cancer Research Program. The walk takes place at 10 a.m. Oct. 25 starting at Cheli's Chili Restaurant in Dearborn. Former Red Wing defenseman Chris Chelios' restaurant will go smoke free for the day in honor of the event and Chelios will donate a portion of every diner's bill to the U-M Lung Cancer Research Program. More information about the event can be found at www.breatheeasy.kintera.org.

Grand's diagnosis with lung cancer has greatly affected the way she feels about the work that she did at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her work focused mainly on organizing events that raise funds for The Patient & Family Support Service Program.

"As important as I knew this program was, it wasn't until I became a patient and began utilizing these services that I really understood the impact it has on the patient and the patient's family," she says. "What it did for me and my family was to offer us tools that empowered us and gave back some of the control that the cancer diagnosis took away — it's been critical to my wellness."

Through her experience, Grand has developed a strong relationship with the medical team that is treating her disease.

"We are so grateful to Dr. Kalemkerian and his team at the University of Michigan Lung Cancer Clinic who offered us hope during a very hopeless time," Grand says. "We believe that the research being done at the U-M Lung Cancer Research Program will one day be far-reaching."

Lynne Shivers, chair of the University Events Planners, has worked with Grand. After learning of her illness, Shivers invited Grand to share her story with a group of coworkers. Shivers hopes she and her coworkers can help educate the campus community about lung cancer and increase awareness.

Grand wants to destigmatize the disease through outreach events like the Breathe Easy Walk & Dine. She offers the following statistics:

• Lung cancer kills more people than breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic cancers combined.

• People who have never smoked in their lives get lung cancer.

• Lung cancer patients don't always speak up due to the stigmatization surrounding this disease.

"It's time to break the silence and speak out about this deadly disease," she says. "I also believe when you help to advance the research for one cancer you are ultimately advancing the research of all cancers."

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