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Stephanie, enjoying a ride on the beach.
Stephanie Haney admits her life isn’t anything like she thought it would be. “I am more grateful, more living life in the moment, and more focused on the big picture than I ever expected to be,” she explains. Stephanie watches her children more closely than she used to and tries to celebrate more moments and create more meaningful experiences than she had been. “I am less afraid and more faithful. I live with terminal lung cancer.”
Stephanie, a 39-year-old mother of two, learned she had metastatic lung cancer - a disease for which she had no risk factors.
In October, 2007, at age 39, Stephanie’s life was turned upside down when she was diagnosed with a disease for which she had no risk factors – and no family history. But she accepted her fate and has spent the last four years fighting for her life. “I am also fighting for all those diagnosed with and likely to die of the disease since it has such a dismal survival rate and so few alive to speak up for them,” she added.
When she was initially diagnosed, Stephanie traveled more than two hours to Fox Chase to meet Ranee Mehra, MD, a medical oncologist, for a second opinion, but decided to undergo treatment at a hospital near her home. Little did she know, Dr. Mehra would become an integral part of her treatment team down the road.
In early 2011, Stephanie was continuing to research treatment options. She came across a clinical trial for a drug treatment that targets a specific gene mutation. The trial was available at Fox Chase under the medical supervision of Dr. Mehra. Stephanie contact Dr. Mehra and asked to enroll in the trial. Stephanie was thrilled to learn she had been accepted to the trial because she was “lucky” enough to carry the gene mutation.
"I am grateful to Fox Chase and Pfizer for the opportunity to get a head start on such a promising treatment.”
Several months into the trial, Stephanie reported, “I have been on the drug for seven months and it has successfully stabilized my tumors. It even recently received FDA approval. I am grateful to Fox Chase and Pfizer [the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug] for the opportunity to get a head start on such a promising treatment.”
As any cancer patient knows, there will be bumps in the road. For Stephanie that included the discovery of a small brain tumor metastases. Although this was not considered to be a failure of the treatment (because it had not been intended to protect the brain), it had to be dealt with, nonetheless. When Dr. Mehra learned this news, she quickly referred Stephanie to her colleague, radiation oncologist, Shelley Hayes, MD, who is the director of Fox Chase Buckingham (a satellite location). Dr. Hayes specializes in CyberKnife radiation treatment which allows her to target very delicate areas of the body with minimal damage to nearby tissue. The tumor was radiated successfully and there were very few side effects.
“I feel confident that Dr. Mehra and Dr. Hayes consider all options and take the best course for me.”
“I am extremely grateful for the care and individual attention I have received during this time,” explained Stephanie. “I feel confident that Dr. Mehra and Dr. Hayes consider all options and take the best course for me.”
Through this challenging time in her life, Stephanie believes she has been blessed with some wonderful experiences and relationships with her medical team. She attributes her success to being her own health care advocate. “I am not afraid to demand the best and most up-to-date treatment available so that I can have more time to raise my two young daughters.”
"Thanks to the incredible team at Fox Chase, I am an active participant in my life."
Stephanie continues to travel to Fox Chase every three weeks, sometimes more often. “It is worth it to me to receive the most progressive treatments possible to sustain my quality of life and my time with my children and in pursuit of other interests, including advocating for lung cancer awareness and funding. Thanks to the incredible team at Fox Chase, I am an active participant in my life, and don’t intend to let lung cancer get in the way of that.”