Back in the '90s, Reba Kennedy made it her mission to leave no stone unturned when it came to her cancer treatment. Now she hopes MD Anderson’s Lung Cancer Moon Shot will encourage others to follow her lead.
Surgeons in Kennedy’s hometown of Knoxville, Tenn. removed her first lung cancer in 1997, her second in 1999 and a breast cancer in 2002. Two years later, her lung cancer returned, this time stage IV, in a large mass wrapped around her ribs. Kennedy’s doctors deemed the tumor inoperable and recommended she seek a second opinion at MD Anderson.
“I was facing death,” she recalls. “But from the time I came through the door, everybody was fighting for me. I knew I was going to the best place in the world.”
Anne Tsao, M.D., associate professor, Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, and David Rice, M.D., professor, Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, determined they could remove the tumor if they replaced part of Kennedy’s rib cage with an artificial one.
‘Give it everything you’ve got’
The past decade has been eventful. Both of Kennedy’s sons have married and had two children of their own. She water skis, plays golf and tubes down snowy mountains with her grandchildren. She recently zip-lined in Costa Rica.
“Every day is the best day ever,” she says. “There’s a rich segment of my life that I wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t gone to MD Anderson. I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Kennedy is confident the Lung Cancer Moon Shot will promote new therapies, give hope and encourage patients around the world to get up and fight.
“It’s as if I’ve been granted a whole new life, and I’d love for other patients to have that too,” she says. “I tell people, ‘Don’t give up! Don’t give in! You need to go to the best doctors in the world, see what they’ve got to say, then give it everything you’ve got.’”