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10-Year Lung Cancer Survivor Shares Her Optimism

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Published on April 21, 2015

Melissa Crouse is so unique in the lung cancer world that she represents only one of two people available for the current trial she is in.  What makes her so rare? She is a 10-year lung cancer survivor.  Carol Preston, Director of Communications at the Patient Empowerment Network (PEN), spoke with Melissa at the "HOPE Summit Live: Living Well with Lung Cancer Today" town meeting at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. When Melissa was first diagnosed, there was no proton beam therapy or molecular fingerprinting. She now benefits from both, as well as from all three of the clinical trials of which she was a participant. Melissa enjoys mentoring newly diagnosed lung cancer patients with her message, “I was given three to five years to live 10 years ago.”

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Transcript | 10-Year Lung Cancer Survivor Shares Her Optimism

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That's how you’ll get care that's most appropriate for you.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

Carol Preston:

The audience is looking at someone or something they perhaps never have seen, a 10-year lung cancer survivor. 

Melissa Krauss:

Well, I'm surviving.  I'm currently on a clinical trial.  This will be the third clinical trial I've participated in since my diagnosis.

Carol Preston:

And so these become the bridge to the next treatment. 

Melissa Krauss:

Yes.  And I have to say that in the 10 years that I've been dealing with this I have seen so much progress being made.  Back 10 years ago, you didn't hear about proton beam therapy.  I've had proton beam therapy. 

Ten years ago, a lot of these genetic mutations or the genotypes, molecular fingerprinting, whatever you want to call them, hadn't been identified yet.  They knew about the E-G-F-R and the A-L-K, and then came the K-R—KRAS. 

Carol Preston:

It's an alphabet soup.

Melissa Krauss:

I know. It was recently discovered, well, about 18 months ago that I have the R-E-T mutation.  And the science now, as the doctors were talking about earlier, is all about developing treatments to target the genotypes and the mutations that are triggering lung cancer.

Carol Preston:

Well, I think Dr. Scott Antonia here at Moffitt Cancer Center summed it up best, and Dr. Carbone, that every patient is unique.  Even if you chat with somebody else who seems to have the same diagnosis, it's really not.  So this era that we've entered of personalized medicine, the immunotherapy, for you it's just got to be a huge game changer. 

Melissa Krauss:

Well, it's a game changer for me and for research, and it makes me feel good to be able to help expand the research. 

And one of the reasons I think that Andrew asked you to talk to me is he overheard me say something at lunch back to your point about everyone's an individual, and we have to be treated individually.  We are all on the same roller coaster journey.

Carol Preston:

Well, you sum it up very well.  And I want to say you look terrific.  How are you feeling? 

Melissa Krauss:

Thank you.  Um, I'm not feeling too badly.  Thank you.  We're still in the process of adjusting the dosage, because there [are] only two of us in the clinical trial in this country. So there [are] only two people to study, and, of course, the researchers are gathering a lot of information as far as dosages and that kind of thing, side effects, just compiling a lot of information. 

Carol Preston:

But here you are, Melissa, even though you've been through three trials, 10 years later, seem to be going strong. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time.  It's a wonderful, wonderful takeaway for our audience. 

Melissa Krauss:

Right.  And I like to speak to other patients for that very reason, and I do a lot of mentoring online and on the phone and newly diagnosed patients especially as that issue was addressed earlier, too. 

Carol Preston:

And what is the message that you tell them? 

Melissa Krauss:

I was given three to five years to live 10 years ago. 

Carol Preston:

There's nothing more to say, ladies and gentlemen, except that I'm Carol Preston…

Melissa Krauss:

Ta-da. 

Carol Preston:

…ta-da and that knowledge really can be the best medicine of all. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 

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