My grandmother, better known as Mema, passed away from lung cancer nearly four years ago on December 19, 2010. Exactly 24 hours after my birthday.
For five years, Mema battled valiantly against the disease that took her from us. When she was diagnosed she was told – if she was lucky – she had six months to live. The doctors did not expect much. She had just turned 70 and by the time they found the cancer it had metastasized throughout her body.
However, they underestimated Mema and her tenacity for life. She immediately tried several medications until she found one that ultimately extended her life for five years. Regardless of the hospital stays and an eventual confinement to a wheelchair, she was so grateful to have had the opportunity to live another day - to see her grandkids graduate from high school and college, pursue their dreams, fall in love, and out of love. Without innovations in cancer medicines, Mema wouldn’t have had these opportunities, and I wouldn’t have had the chance to understand just how truly amazing she was.
Because of my personal experience, I jumped at the chance to help make the I’m Not Average campaign a reality. Today, cancer survival rates are higher than ever thanks to advances in treatment options. I’m Not Average isn’t about a specific medicine or company, but rather an initiative to celebrate the stories of everyday people who have beaten the odds to live beyond the “average” life expectancy for a cancer diagnosis.
The story of Dian “CJ” Corneliussen-James is the first of many we will release in the coming weeks. CJ was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Nearly eight years later, she is still here, thanks in part to innovations in cancer medicines. Because of stories like Mema and CJ, medicines should not be evaluated based on the projected value they provide to an average patient, but on the value they provide to individual patients. We hope you find this initiative as inspiring as we do and help us to continue the conversation about advances in cancer medicines.