Chris Packard of Houston lost his wife, Ashley Norred Packard, Ph.D., 47, to lung cancer in November 2014. The associate director of Marketing at MD Anderson reflects on Ashley’s legacy and why he encourages others to give. The Memorial Fundraiser for Ashley Packard has raised $2,550 as of January, exceeding its original $1,000 goal by more than 150%.
Lung cancer is often seen as a disease caused by smoking, but Ashley never smoked. We eventually discovered she had a gene mutation that led to ALK-positive lung cancer. Young women and nonsmokers, who may never suspect that they have cancer, can develop ALK mutations. It is common for this type of cancer to be missed until it’s in an advanced stage.
In the months before her diagnosis, Ashley developed a persistent cough. At the time of her diagnosis in March 2014, she was at stage IV. The cancer had already metastasized to her pericardium, brain and spine. She passed away eight months later.
In addition to the conventional therapy at the time, Ashley participated in clinical trials. The cancer, however, kept coming back. But within the past six years, a number of targeted therapy drugs have been developed from clinical trials that offer ALK patients options that didn’t exist then.
Ashley received excellent care at MD Anderson. Bonnie Glisson, M.D., professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, was her thoracic oncologist, and she and her team could not have been more patient, thorough and compassionate. In fact, we were driving in for Ashley’s chemotherapy one day when she mentioned how blessed she was that we lived in Houston so she could be treated at MD Anderson.
Ashley taught digital media law at the University of Houston-Clear Lake for 16 years. She had a deep interest in the law (her father was an attorney) and wrote several books on the subject. The university honored her in 2015 with a digital media law scholarship in her name.
Last year, my daughter Elizabeth and I created this memorial fund for Ashley’s birthday (Aug. 9). We wanted to give our family and friends a way to both honor her legacy and support cancer research. Elizabeth says her mom would have been happy to see us do this.
Elizabeth turned 21 in February and is attending nursing school. Her mom’s illness had a profound effect on both of us. As an MD Anderson employee, I don’t see my work as a job — I see it as part of our mission to help end cancer, particularly lung cancer. That’s my promise to Ashley, to my daughter and to our patients.
DO YOU PROMISE? Tell us why you’re committed to Making Cancer History® by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn how you can be a part of MD Anderson’s Fundraise to End Cancer program, visit mdanderson.org/fundraise.