Stage III Lung Cancer Survivor

His Choice – His Terms

Meet Randall Broad –

Randy is a Patient Empowerment Network board member and 7-year lung cancer survivor. Randy attended the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncologist (ASCO) annual conference held in Chicago, Illinois the weekend of May 29 – June 2, 2015. This was Randy’s first year at ASCO. This year, ASCO focused on the voice of the patient. Randy says this shifting perspective is finally “putting the patient first or making the patient a huge part of the treatment equation.”

Screen shot 2015-06-07 at 3.56.46 PMRandy was diagnosed with stage III non-small lung carcinoma on March of 2008: “It was March 28th, 2008,” says Randy. Randall Broad – a professional small business owner and a father to two kids – says, “I had been healthy pretty much my entire life.” Following his diagnosis, Randy says, ” I fired my ‘first’ crew.” Randy identifies this as the turning point for his role in his care.

“It is so incredibly important that you find the right team- it is a team, it is not one person.” Randy’s local hospital, where he had been treated his whole life, recommended an internal oncologist. Broad says, “when I interviewed the surgeon he basically pushed me out of his room – I don’t think that was his intent, but that is what he did.”

From March 28th, 2008 – January of 2009, Randy made an early distinction between acceptance and fighting against cancer. “I chose the cancer over letting it choose me, meaning that I am going to embrace this, accept it as part of my life because if I try to fight it, beat it, I figured it would probably win.“ Early in Randy’s journey with lung cancer, surgery became the next option but the visualization of his cancer revealed it was inoperable.

When one is newly diagnosed, one typically has no idea of where to look or seek a network of survivors for advice.  With Lung Cancer’s high mortality rate it makes it all the more challenging. Randy demonstrates a relentless conviction to choose his perspective and not give into his cancer. He says it was not until he had lived a couple of years with the disease that he learned about advocacy organizations and focused on being a proactive patient-advocate. “You don’t go to the yellow pages and look it up,” says Randy.

With a great amount of content available online, Randy says there is more information about the disease but not information about where to actually be treated. After moving past the first experience, Broad found his feet tepidly at the steps of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He says meetings with Dr. Renato Martin at SCCA validated the credibility of this surgeon. Broad describes relationship building as a key element to solidify quality care.

From August to November of 2008, Randy received radiation, and chemotherapy combined with radiation. He could sometimes spend up to 13 hours a day at the University of Washington Medical Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. To counteract the physical exhaustion from treatment and cancer, Broad attempted yoga, massages, facials, pedicures, acupuncture and prescribed medication – these remedies only provided a small sigh of relief.

Screenshot from http://itsanextraordinarylife.com/

Screenshot from http://itsanextraordinarylife.com/

At the time of Randy’s diagnosis in March of 2008, his two kids were 13 and 14-years old – a highly formative time in their lives. Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, Randy focused on his small business to provide a sustainable life for him and his children. “I didn’t spend as much time with my kids.” Cancer opened the doorway for Randy to rectify his relationships with his children. Randy says, “My kids are the most important aspect of my life.”

Patient Empowerment

Randy and his children committed themselves to affirmative thinking. When treatment concluded in January of 2009, Randy was deemed cancer free – yet he continued to have scans every couple of months. He says, “Every year that passes, the chances of it reoccurring is minimized.” Broad was diagnosed with cancer over six years ago and still remains cancer free today.

Randy now shares his journey nationally and is committed to empowering patients to be proactive. He presents at about ten speeches a year. One of Broad’s first speaking engagements was with 60 lung cancer patients. After his speech, 20 people approached him to say, “It never dawned on me to fire my crew – my oncology team.”

Randy says he left ASCO with an important message: value-based healthcare. Value-based healthcare places patients and physicians in a greater role to examine all treatments costs and outcomes. Randy has dedicated his life to the empowerment of individuals with all types of cancer. As Randy’s book says, It’s an Extraordinary Life.

Stay up-to-date with Randall Broad’s latest speaking engagements and written work: It’s an Extraordinary Life.

We also invite you to click this link to peer into a vivid and poignant moment printed words cannot convey.

Targeted Therapies: What does it all mean?

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 4.06.15 PM

Screenshot from http://www.asco.org/

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 4.04.50 PM

Carol Preston interviews Leukemia expert at ASCO 2015.

When my kids were little, I loved reading to them Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books including “The Corner” in Frog and Toad All Year. In it, Frog assures Toad on a cold, rainy day that spring is just around the corner. Frog says that when he was younger, on a similar cold, rainy day, he searched for spring around many corners until he eventually found it-sunshine and flowers-around the corner of his house.

And so it is with us cancer patients, constantly peering around every corner for the still elusive cure. Researchers at ASCO 2015 offered the most encouraging, hopeful news yet that we won’t have to look around the corner much longer.

Or will we?

Cancer is a tricky disease, in fact many tricky diseases, constantly morphing and exploiting loopholes to outwit us. The buzzwords at this year’s annual meeting in Chicago included “immunotherapy,” combination therapy and “biomarkers.” Immunotherapy has become the fourth arm to battle cancer, after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. On the upside, scientists are making great strides to develop ways for the body’s immune system to fight the cancer. These are called checkpoint inhibitors. Inhibitors basically release the brakes in cells to allow our immune systems to charge and attack the bad guys, e.g. cancer cells. And since the cancer is being attacked at a molecular level, this should work for everyone. But it doesn’t. And that has proved vexing to researchers. Every specialist with whom PEN spoke at ASCO – from melanoma to lung and prostate cancer to colorectal disease – acknowledges that they don’t yet know why the inhibitors aren’t working for all of us.

That’s where the biomarkers come in. Researchers are working to identify specific markers on an individual’s cell to determine if a specific anti-PD1 or

PD-L1 inhibitor will work on a patient. Or why it won’t work.

For my cancer Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, CLL, combination therapy made headline news at ASCO. Through clinical trials, scientists have found that combining a checkpoint inhibitor, Ibrutinib, with a standard chemotherapy called bendamustine along with the monoclonal antibody Rituxan yielded an 80% response rate. That’s a “wow,” but it still isn’t 100%. What is it about the 20% that their bodies resisted the combo therapy?

Maybe the key to unlock the mystery lies with genetics. On the last day of the conference, ASCO announced a joint effort with the NCI, National Cancer Institute, to conduct basket trials. These trials group patients together with specific genetic mutations in a patient’s tumor rather than the location of the tumor. So a prostate cancer patient may achieve complete remission or, dare we say, cure by being treated with a drug developed for breast cancer because of the same genetic mutation found in both.

Will that be the magic bullet that cures cancer? I am optimistic that the answer is just around the corner.