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A Survivor's Story

Family Matters - Spring 2009

Lisa Richardson

This winter, Lisa Richardson did something she never thought she would do. She went downhill skiing and learned that a mountain is one more thing she could conquer.

The adventure was a long time coming. Originally invited to go along on the Children’s Art Project-sponsored trip in 1988, she had to decline because she was having additional surgery. For some reason, it was marked that she was not interested at all, but a reconnection with the art project 20 years later proved that wrong.

So, in early 2009, Richardson and her dad took off on a week-long ski vacation with the patients of the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson. It seems that it’s never too late to get your skiing opportunity, and Richardson doesn’t plan to miss another one.

“I don’t think I truly understood the powerful impact of the Children’s Art Project funding until I was able to attend the pediatric ski trip,” she says. “Even 21 years after making my card, it was a great experience to be on the receiving end of such a great program — and I am happy that I was able to contribute in some small way.”

Richardson, diagnosed with a rare cancer called chondroblastic osteogenic sarcoma that was originally thought to be terminal, was accepted at M. D. Anderson by Norman Jaffe, M.D., for treatment. The tumor, the size of a fist, was located against her spinal cord, which other doctors felt they could not deal with, but Jaffe was willing to try. After chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and leg-saving surgery, Richardson was on the way to life after cancer. There were future bumps in the road, but today, she is a third grade teacher in North Carolina.

Richardson explains that she never contemplated that her design would be selected, much less printed two years in a row and having ancillary products — a silk scarf, a tote bag and a lunch bag — developed from it. She says that over the years, her card design has become something of a symbol of her entire cancer experience.

“I missed out on so much due to treatments and surgeries, but the success of my card design and its small contribution to all of the wonderful programs that CAP supports makes it worthwhile.”

And by the way, when Lisa returned to M. D. Anderson after 20 years, she says that the only thing that hadn’t changed was Jaffe.

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