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Renita’s Story – stage 3 lung cancer

Renita knows what it takes to fight cancer because she’s doing it now for the third time. She 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 her lungs. But two years later she developed a persistent and troubling cough that sent her back to her oncologist. That’s when she learned her lung cancer was back and this time it’s stage 3.

Renita - stage 3 lung cancer

Despite aggressive treatment including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, her cancer spread to her adrenal glands and her weight dropped to just 70 pounds. In the spring of 2021, her doctor gave her sobering news.

“He just walked in one day 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,” Renita explains. 

Renita wasn’t willing to accept that death sentence. So, she searched around for new options and found one with a clinical trial at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The only drawback – it was 6 hours away from her home in Oklahoma City. Family initially drove her there and back. But that quickly proved unsustainable with trips required every three weeks.

When Renita mentioned her travel and financial challenges to hospital staff – a social worker told her about Lazarex Cancer Foundation, which reimburses patients for their travel costs to and from clinical trials. She signed up right away and they started reimbursing her for her travel expenses, which typically involve $250-300 for each plane ticket and $150/night for a hotel.

“Finding my way to Lazarex was a real Godsend,” Renita says. “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, Renita’s been able to stay in her clinical trial and get her treatment, which involves infusions every three weeks. And they’re making a difference. “When I first started, I was in so much pain with my lungs,” she says. “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 I still have some cancer spots, but some have gone away.”

Renita says she’s now filled with hope and taking things day by day – with the help of an incredible support group of friends and neighbors who make sure she’s eating well and getting to the airport for her clinical trial trips – and with Lazarex’s support that makes that possible too. “I don’t know what I would do without Lazarex’s help,” she explains. “Without them, I don’t think I’d be able to keep going with this trial unless I had done a GoFundMe. 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.”