Ed Pearson was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer on October 12, 2006. He fought the disease until June 24, 2009. He didn’t “lose” his battle against cancer. Rather, his part in the cancer war ended, but our role in that fight continues.
I guess Dad’s cancer was as stubborn as he was. He endured 3 rounds of conventional chemo and radiation treatment, each time defeating the disease, but each time it came back. Small rogue cancer cells popped up in his clavicle, back in his lungs, and on his liver. After the third recurrence, Dad and his team at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston decided he should enter a clinical trial, BATTLE (Biomarker-integrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination). BATTLE, a Phase II trial, is the first large clinical trial to test the effectiveness of a personalized treatment approach to lung cancer. It aims to identify the unique lung cancer biomarkers, so that treatment regimens can be personalized to each patient’s needs.
BATTLE was brutal for Dad. The side effects he experienced during the trial were worse than any of his chemo and radiation side effects. In fact, he had the worst side effects of any of the BATTLE patients for 2 of the 4 medications involved in the study. Despite it all, he kept going right to the very end, without stopping. His M.D. Anderson team had a nickname for him: “Superman.”
Dad insisted that all his cancer experiences – good or bad – be used to help someone else beat this disease. He tried to learn everything possible about his treatment options, and he was always on the phone with his team, telling them the good and the bad of what he was experiencing at that particular moment, offering his thoughts and advice. He knew there were no guarantees during any of his treatments, especially with the BATTLE trial. I think he’d be pleased with the trial’s results. Of the 225 patients studied, 46 percent saw improvements in their overall disease control rate after 2 months of targeted treatment.
That’s the way Dad was, always putting others ahead of himself, without complaint. It’s the way I am most times. Dad always told me that I can do anything I set my mind to. He always told me that he was proud of me. He always told me that he loved me. I’m trying to be as good a father to my son as he was to me.
During the last conversation we had, Dad implored me to keep fighting cancer. “Never give up, no matter what. Continue the fight, and fight like hell,” he said.