Stories of hope

Anna Presser


Immediately after the recurrence of breast cancer in 2014, Lori, 47, would wake up in the middle of the night panicked that she didn't pass along the information her husband and five children would need to manage life after her death. This time she knew the disease would not be going away.

So, she got a little black book.

On the pages of the Moleskine, you can trace her battle in minute detail. Entries can be mundane, like a reminder to tell her husband about where she stores a housecleaning item. Sometimes, entries are for short term action, like the list of her appointments, who drove her and who needs a card thanking them for a home-cooked meal. But the long term is there, too, and includes her funeral plans.

Her journey began in 2012 and that time she was treated with chemotherapy. But two years later, an ache in her collarbone heralded cancer’s return. The first time she had felt empowered; she had set her sights on becoming the next executive director of the community foundation where she worked in fundraising and awarding grants. Learning her disease had not only returned but spread gave her pause.

For awhile the treatment plan outlined by her oncologist, Dr. Kathy Miller, held the disease at bay. Recently, though, success has been elusive. Lori, who makes the hour drive south to Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, is on her eighth line of treatment. In the past year, two regimens have failed to halt the cancer creeping into her sternum and lungs. A third is working for now. A pragmatist at heart, Lori and her family have balanced optimism with reality.

“It’s real life,” she said. “Your husband, your kids, your friends, they all need to know the real part of it. Treatments aren’t working. And, we don’t know why they’re not working.”

It’s also why Lori is heartened to hear the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer is generously supporting physicians and scientists at the IU School of Medicine in their quest for new therapies. “That’s what can save my life,” she said. “That might be the next drug. It might give me another year or another six months. It’s why I’m so appreciative. Another six months is a gift to me.”

And there’s always the information laden pages of her black book.

“Now, in the middle of the night, if I wake up, I just say, ‘It’s in your little black book. You’re fine,'” she said.

—IU School of Medicine

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