Focus

 

 

Do Something to Help Fight Cancer

When someone close has cancer it's hard to know how to help. Fans of this new father will do The Prouty to help fund cancer research.

Focus article photo

Amy and Greg (holding Briar) Grappone, and Dr. Erick Lansigan

"We found out the day after she was born that Greg's only viable treatment option was a stem cell transplant," Amy Grappone wrote in a blog post. "In the weeks leading up to her birth, his cancer had become very aggressive and there was little time to waste. As we relaxed in the hospital room swooning over our new bundle, Greg's oncologist called to tell him he'd be starting chemo within the next several days."

Starting family life this way would overwhelm most couples, but Greg and Amy Grappone are not the ordinary couple. Their courage and resilience as they face Greg's lymphoma have touched friends, doctors, hospital staff, and fellow cancer patients in hospital waiting rooms or on the web. Many following their journey have been inspired to take action to fight against cancer.

Sharing their struggle with lymphoma helps others

A journalist, Amy is a skilled researcher and writer. With Greg, she shares treatment details, cancer resources, and reflects on fatigue and emotional challenges in a blog, Counting up from Zero. What started as a central place to update friends and family has grown into a source of information and comfort for a growing community of people touched by their fight.

Their courage and "will to heal" inspires treatment team

When Greg was diagnosed with mycosis fungoides, a rare form of lymphoma that affects the skin, his cancer was unusually aggressive. His doctors at NCCC's Cutaneous Lymphoma Interdisciplinary Clinic Center, oncologist Dr. Erick Lansigan and dermatologist Dr. Kathryn Zug, decided a stem cell transplant was his best treatment option, but his disease was so aggressive that multiple therapies were needed to get it into remission so that treatment could begin. Before really getting to know his daughter Briar, Greg's journey began: five months of alternating chemotherapy and radiation. He was hospitalized five times in five months.

"Our team understood their unique compelling and urgent challenges as a young family," said Zug. "I am such a big fan of their amazing courage and will to heal."

(Dr. Erick Lansigan) "This experience has shown that teamwork−among professionals within institutions and with patients and their families−contributes to the successful treatment of the toughest cancers. I have learned a great deal about this lymphoma by treating Greg's disease, but I've also learned about how to be a better doctor for my patients." Dr. Erick Lansigan

 

(Dr. Kathryn Zug with son Will at The Prouty) "Greg and his wife inspired us to be our best as caregivers. They were integral to treatment decisions and were excellent communicators. This husband and wife team affirmed for me the vital role family members play in the care of patients with cancer. It is tantamount to what we do." Dr. Kathryn Zug

 

While treating Greg, Lansigan presented on this type of lymphoma at an international conference. Drawing on this research, and on input from colleagues, Greg's treatment team modified his last chemotherapy cycles to incorporate the most novel treatment, which helped him reach remission. (He has since had a successful stem cell transplant.)

"Greg's disease was one of the most aggressive skin lymphomas I've ever treated," Lansigan said. "It was extremely difficult to get a remission durable enough to proceed with a stem cell transplant."

Prouty "Team Greg" supports cancer research

Greg and Amy's family and close friends immediately pitched in: caring for Briar, cooking meals, driving from Concord to Lebanon, NH for appointments, walking the dog, cleaning house. Amanda, one of his four sisters, was a perfect donor match for Greg and provided lifesaving stem cells for his transplant. Others registered to be stem cell donors, or donated blood platelets.

But some, like Greg's childhood friend Anna Moskov, struggled to find a way to help. Like many people she didn't know where to start: Should she ask questions? Would another casserole help? She channeled her energy into creating "Team Greg" for The Prouty, an annual event that raises money to support cancer research and patient-support services at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

Since Greg turned 33 this year, the team's goal is to have at least 33 team participants raise $33K. Greg's sister Gina, now back at her home in Seattle, Washington, will do a Virtual Prouty. Others have joined the team, including Dr. Zug (who will ride The Prouty 35 mile course with her daughter and son), and Dr. Thomas Knackstedt, a resident in Dermatology who met Greg while working with Dr. Zug at the clinic. He will ride 50 miles, and many of his fellow residents and clinic staff members have helped raise funds for the team.

You can do something to fight cancer

More than 5,000 people come to The Prouty each year to honor a patient in treatment or a loved one lost to cancer. Now it its 32nd year, The Prouty is northern New England's largest charity fundraiser, and has raised more than $17 million to support cancer research and patient-centered care at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center.

There are many ways to do The Prouty: you can walk, row, bike, golf, or join the more than 1,200 volunteers at the event. You can even do The Prouty virtually, or contribute money to support a team. Find more information on The Prouty website.

NCCC Programs

June 17, 2013