Shenard’s life turned upside down when, after a few more tests, a doctor bluntly delivered the diagnosis: it was Stage 4 lung cancer.
Cancer came out of nowhere in 2022 for Shenard Matthews who didn’t have any symptoms when a spot was discovered on his lungs during an X-ray to treat a hernia. His life turned upside down in that moment. After a few more tests, a doctor bluntly delivered the diagnosis: it was Stage 4 lung cancer.
“He said, ‘Unfortunately, Mr. Matthews, you don’t have that much time to live and there’s not much you can do about it,’” the 52-year-old father of four in Louisiana says. He was shocked and distraught. “I had tears coming down my eyes because I’ve never, ever been sick in my life.”
Suddenly unable to return to the job he’d had for 15 years at a local chemical plant, Shenard found support in friends and his community. His doctor had never mentioned the one thing that might help him — a clinical trial. Shenard wasn’t familiar with clinical trials or how to find one. But when his cancer didn’t fully respond to five rounds of radiation, a friend pointed him in the right direction.
“She said I needed a second opinion and wanted me to call MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. I didn’t know about it and hadn’t heard about it but I called,” Shenard says. On his first visit, oncologists told him his lung cancer isn’t curable, but said his best chance to fight it would be through a clinical trial. He signed up on the spot. “They told me they could treat my cancer and fight it. This drug doesn’t even have a name yet. It’s just numbers. But they said it would help prolong my life, so I had no hesitation,” Shenard explains.
Like many patients, Shenard has faced many barriers trying to access his clinical trial.
- Cost: Traveling to clinical trials is expensive, involving airfare, hotels, gas, tolls and parking – often every 3 to 4 weeks. This was especially challenging for Shenard since he had to give up his job when he got sick.
- Insurance: A Medicaid patient, Matthews was told he didn’t have coverage for an out-of-state clinical trial.
- Geography: His home state of Louisiana is among the worst at catching lung cancer early, a key factor in effective treatment and MD Anderson is 305 miles from his house – a 5 hour drive away.
Despite the daunting challenges, Matthews is managing to find a way around all of them. He was down to his last $400 when he reached out to Lazarex Cancer Foundation for help with travel costs – the rental car, mileage, hotel and parking – required for each monthly trip to Houston and wants others in similar positions to know that help is out there and they shouldn’t give up looking for it.
“I want to share my story because cancer isn’t just for rich people. It’s hard for people like me,” he explains. “Now, I’m getting reimbursed to travel the 305 miles there every month. It’s relieving so much stress and my cancer is shrinking now, too.”