In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day, Brian Druker M.D., Director, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute writes a guest post about what this day means to him, and how a patient inspires his work to end cancer as we know it.
Like so many of my colleagues, I embarked on my career as a physician scientist because I wanted to see more patients with cancer become survivors. It’s what drives me and it’s also what drives the researchers and clinicians at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
But as I think back on my career, I realize that it’s not just about surviving; I want patients to thrive.
I recently met a young woman who was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia at the age of 16; today, eleven years later, Alexa Score is living her dream. A diagnosis of leukemia at such an early age gave her an appreciation for the richness of life and she has seized it. She is a world champion wakeboarder, an active and vibrant young athlete, full of life — and she is doing this because her leukemia has been effectively treated with Gleevec.
“Since I can remember, I’ve had an insatiable zest for life, full of dreams and grand aspirations. At age sixteen, Leukemia threatened to take my life and all of that away. Because of Gleevec, I’ve had a chance to live and experience years on years that I would have never had,” Alexa says.
“But I haven’t just lived, I've pursued and accomplished my wildest dreams, created priceless memories, and had the opportunity to to work towards contributing to society and the world."
"My life and all that I’ve done in the past eleven years is a product of the tireless efforts of OHSU’s researchers and the donations of their supporters," Alexa says. "My gratitude is indescribable. I can only hope that someday every patient like me will have a chance to not only survive, but to thrive.”
Alexa is incredibly inspiring to me, not only for what she has accomplished, but her success makes you realize what’s possible. And we want that for every patient with cancer.
The job of tackling cancer is formidable, but I see progress every day. Because of the support of so many people, our institute has grown to become Oregon’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have recruited some of the best and brightest minds in the world to join us in our fight to end cancer. We strive to be bold in our approach, not being afraid to think differently, and we recognize that team work and collaboration will accelerate our progress in ending cancer as we know it.
Your support has been a key element in our growth and success. Like Alexa, we all want the burden of cancer lifted so people can live active, happy lives, free to pursue their dreams. Thank you for the role you have played in that; we have a lot of work still to do, but together we can create a future where what Alexa has accomplished is what any patient with cancer can.