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Tom’s Story

Tom Berry

Written by Maida Broudo 
Dealing with a medical condition is something that Tom Berry, now 71, knows all too well. He had a rare blood disorder, called polycythemia vera for 10 years before it finally resolved. The following year, he became particularly exhausted and went to see his local physician. Given Tom’s medical history, blood tests were performed and revealed a very low hemoglobin (oxygen) count.

Tom’s doctor fortunately decided to do a bone marrow biopsy, which indicated that he had a rare cancer called myelofibrosis, an uncommon type of chronic leukemia — a cancer that affects the blood-forming tissues in the body. There are not many treatments available that will alter the course of this disease.

Wanting to learn more about the diagnosis, Tom spent a Sunday afternoon at his computer researching the disease. He came across a Dr. Rubin Masa, Chairman of Oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, Arizona. He sent Dr. Masa an email and much to Tom’s surprise, he heard back from him within 3 hours, and let him know about not only the clinical trials that he might be able to participate in, but also about Lazarex Cancer Foundation.

“I can’t tell you how great those people are at Lazarex”, said Tom, who has been able to travel to his treatments and bring his girlfriend of 25 years. “She is my support system”. Every six weeks, Tom travels to the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, and receives a drug that costs over $10,000 per month. Lazarex helps offset his medical expenses by paying for his airfare, parking and ground transportation as well as that of his girlfriend.

Lazarex is known for helping families stay together during the greatest challenge of having a loved one participate in a clinical trial, often far from home. Patients need to go where the clinical trials are, and to face that alone, without support of a loved one, is more than anyone should bear. “I send my travel bills to Lazarex, and three weeks later I have a check” said Tom. “It has made all the difference for me, and I just want to get the word out”.