By Renita Raney
I’m no stranger to fighting cancer because I’m doing it now for the third time. I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and beat it. Then came a lung cancer diagnosis in 2019. Robotic surgery successfully removed the cancerous spots on my lungs but two years later I developed a persistent and troubling cough. I knew what that meant and went quickly to see my oncologist. That’s when I learned the lung cancer was back and this time it’s stage 3.
Despite aggressive treatment including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer spread to my adrenal glands, and it was really hard on my body. My weight dropped to just 70 pounds and despite doing everything my doctor asked, in the spring of 2021, he gave me sobering news. He just walked in one day at an appointment and said – I can’t do any more for you since the chemo is making you so sick. Given the type of cancer you have – I give you six months to live.
I’m a fighter and I’ve triumphed over cancer before, so I was definitely not willing to accept that death sentence. So, I began searching for new options and I found one with a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The only drawback – it was 9 hours away from where I live in Oklahoma City. Initially I had family who could help me drive there and back. But with trips required every three weeks – that quickly became too much to ask of others.
One day, I mentioned the trouble I was having with the travel to a hospital social worker and she’s the one who first told me about Lazarex Cancer Foundation and another group. That other group gave me a one-time gift of $100 which I certainly appreciate but it didn’t help me long term. Knowing that Lazarex could cover all my travel costs – every three weeks – was the most enormous discovery and blessing. I signed up right away and they started reimbursing me for my plane tickets, which each month cost about $250-$300. They also reimburse me for my hotel, which is about $150/night. I don’t need their help with taxis or Ubers because a wonderful group called Ground Angels drives me to and from the airport and to the hospital for treatment at no cost.
It’s hard to put into words how much of a Godsend it was to find my way to Lazarex. There isn’t a clinical trial closer to me. This is the one I need to fight my cancer and there’s no way I could afford to get there and home without Lazarex, especially because I’ve had to retire while fighting cancer and I’ve been living off my 401K.
Thanks to reimbursements from Lazarex, I’ve been able to stay in my clinical trial and get my treatment, which involves infusions every three weeks. And the great news is – this treatment is making a difference. When I first started, I was in so much pain with my lungs. I didn’t know how much longer I could take it. But now I’m pain free. I’m up to 100 pounds. The hole in my stomach from chemo has healed up and while I still have some cancer spots, some have gone away.
Most importantly, I’m now filled with hope again and taking things day by day – with the help of an incredible support group of friends and neighbors like Lisa S. and Harold L. who make sure I’m eating well and getting to the airport for my clinical trial trip.
“I don’t know what I would do without Lazarex’s help. I don’t think I’d be able to keep going with this trial unless I had created a GoFundMe and it seems unlikely that would have worked. The cost of travel would completely wipe out all my retirement and everything I have. You hear so many stories of cancer patients who die because they can’t pay the bills and I’m just so grateful I don’t have to worry about that and can focus on getting well.