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Living with Cancer: A Delicate Imbalance

Thriving With Cancer

A Blog Post by Chuck Maniscalco | March 28, 2017

A year ago, I was the healthiest 60-something year-old person I knew. Worked out every day; ate well; kept my weight down. My blood work-ups from my annual physicals were suitable for framing. Then, the bomb hit — in October 2016, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. I had thoracic surgery; due to the recovery from that, plus the pain from the disease itself, I was on a hefty dose of opiate medications. For the rest of that year, I was pretty much a pain-ridden, groggy-headed vegetable.

Lung Cancer Death Sentence?

But fortunately for me, that is not the end of my story — just the beginning. For anyone who knows about this disease, my diagnosis used to be a death sentence. Frankly, it still is for many, many people.

I, however, had the good fortune to have tested positive for a genetic mutation that could be treated with an oral medication called Tarceva: more effective than chemo and with fewer and less severe side effects. I started on this medication on November 1, 2016. Before updating you on my status, let me digress just a bit.

My Unwanted Intimacy with Lung Cancer

It is my great misfortune to have considerable history with lung cancer. I held my mother's hand eight years ago when she took her last breath after her bout with this disease. More recently, just three years ago, I held my little sister's hand when she too succumbed to this miserable malady.

And so, now it's my turn. I am five months into my treatment and pretty much back into my normal life. At the same point in time for them, my mother was dead — and my sister was desperately trying a variety of chemotherapy cocktails, to no avail. So, what is different today?

Foundations for a New Approach to Treatment

The difference today can be traced back to Richard Nixon (of all people), who declared a war on cancer way back in 1971 and funded significant research efforts to fight this war. I never thought I'd be thanking Nixon for anything, but he has my gratitude.

The difference is also due to Craig Venter and Francis Collins, who sequenced the human genome in the early 2000s. And, the difference is due to thousands of researchers since then who've utilized the foundational research that resulted from these efforts and designed whole new approaches to treatment for cancer.

When my mother was diagnosed eight years ago, she had one option for treatment: chemo. When my sister was diagnosed four years ago, she had two options: chemo, or targeted therapy for a couple of gene mutations. When I was diagnosed, lung cancer treatment was already in the midst of a revolution. Chemotherapy, the go-to approach for all advanced lung cancer not that long ago, is the choice only half of the time today. The other half of lung cancer cases are being treated by either targeted treatment (like my own), or immunotherapy — both of which are far, far superior.

I am the beneficiary of research. Pure and simple. The team of people who are caring for me at the Lurie Cancer Center are fabulous, but it is the research that led to targeted treatments that is the key to my life.

Where to Next?

With a need and desire to do something with my gratitude, I spent time with Dr. Leonidas Platanias, who heads the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, and he told me about OncoSET.

This, my friends, is research that will lead to the next revolution in cancer treatment: personalization.

If you haven't already read the summary of the Lung OncoSET program, please do so here. Treatment of many diseases, cancer included, will become one-to-one. Each of us treated for exactly our unique profile. I believe it — but more importantly, so do those who truly know what they are talking about.

I'm in the process of sending over a hefty donation of money to jumpstart the lung cancer part of this program, and am participating in the research with my own data. I will update you on what I learn about myself through this process.

Thriving with Cancer? Really?!

When I started this note, I told you that a year ago, I was the healthiest person I knew. A year later, I am the healthiest person I know — who happens to have cancer. It's not surviving, it's thriving. And I have research to thank.

I can think of no better place to invest your support, so please join me in giving to this worthy effort. Our children and their children with thank us, even if we're not Nixon or Venter.

About Chuck Maniscalco

Chuck ManiscalcoDiagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer in October 2016, Chuck benefitted from the advanced, individualized and research-based treatment options offered at the Lung OncoSET, part of the Lurie Cancer Center.

Chuck retired after a long and accomplished career in business, including roles as President of Gatorade, CEO of Quaker, Tropicana and Gatorade, and CEO of Seventh Generation. A man of many passions, he was an avid runner and guitar player, and took daily joy in completing the New York Times crossword puzzle. Chuck passed away March 19, 2019 at his home in Winnetka.

About Lung OncoSET

The Lung OncoSET is an extension of the Lurie Cancer Center's breakthrough OncoSET Program. OncoSET (Sequence, Evaluate, Treat) is based on the premise that each individual and every person's cancer is unique. It harnesses the power of precision medicine to identify tailored therapies for patients based on the abnormal genes specific to their tumor.

In 2014, the Lurie Cancer Center became the first academic cancer center in Chicago and one of only a handful in the nation to provide this kind of personalized medicine to patients with tumors — especially those tumors that are resistant to traditional cancer therapies. Learn more about Lung OncoSET and support more effective treatments for patients with lung cancer.

Support Lung OncoSET

Recent Posts

A Delicate Imbalance - Video (12/6/2017)

The Importance of Research (9/21/2017)

Is Immunotherapy a Panacea? (6/22/2017)

Cancer: Literally a Matter of Life and Death, and More (5/11/2017)

Cancer: Why Do We Need Precision Medicine? (5/1/2017)

Thriving with Cancer (3/28/2017)
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