Annual Report 2013: Ending Cancer Together
This past year, Wall Street Journal columnist Laura Landro traveled from her home in New York City to Seattle to mark the 20th anniversary of the bone marrow transplant that saved her life. She did not make the trip, or the much longer journey it commemorated, alone.
The 2012 celebration reunited Laura with several members of a team that began to form shortly after she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia in 1991. Her first step had been to reach out to family, friends and journalism colleagues for help investigating treatment options and tracking down medical experts. That exhaustive, nationwide search eventually led her to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where her one chance at a cure — bone marrow transplantation — had been pioneered.
Once at Fred Hutch, Laura's team, augmented by doctors and nurses, supported her throughout the grueling treatment. Her mother, Beverly, who is a nurse with expertise in oncology, and a close friend were diligent caregivers. Her brother Chris donated the marrow for her transplant while her other brother Art supplied platelets to keep her blood clotting properly.
Chris, Art and their families were among those in Seattle for the anniversary party in 2012, which included an excursion to Mount Rainier. The dominating peak has become a totem of the team’s success in overcoming Laura’s cancer, and the group, particularly Laura’s nieces and nephew, delighted in the opportunity to build snowmen in June.
Also present for the snowy gathering was Laura's husband, Rick Salomon. Since meeting Laura after her transplant, Rick has been by her side through every check-up, two recurrences and the months she spent reliving every detail to write a book about her experience, "Survivor: Taking Control of Your Fight Against Cancer."
He was by her side again in December 2012 when the couple returned to Seattle, this time to publicly honor another team member who had been instrumental in Laura's cure, her physician, Dr. Rainer Storb. During an emotional evening at the Hutch Holiday Gala, Laura and Rick stood with Rainer on stage, representatives of the partnerships that make transplantation and other cancer breakthroughs possible.
"I felt so honored to be there and especially gratified to see Rainer recognized," Laura said. "He is such a pioneer, with Don Thomas, in this amazing treatment."
Over the years, through Laura’s treatment successes and setbacks, Rainer has become more than just a trusted doctor. He and his wife, fellow Fred Hutch researcher Dr. Beverly Torok-Storb, have forged a special bond with Laura and Rick, finding common ground in their no-nonsense approach to life and their tastes in wine — Rick and Beverly prefer reds while Laura and Rainer enjoy whites.
Rick and Laura have also become steadfast friends of Fred Hutch. "Once you have a relationship with someplace like the Hutch," Laura said, "You don’t want to lose it. Ever."
One way she and Rick remain so connected is by directly funding research. His expertise in investment management and philanthropy, and their shared appreciation for the lifesaving power of Fred Hutch science, led them to establish an endowment for leukemia research. Supporting research, they say, is a way to give back for all they have received.
Laura also gives back in her professional life. After her transplant, her journalism training spurred her to share what she had learned as a cancer patient so others might benefit. She wrote essays and her book, and she traded in the Hollywood beat at The Wall Street Journal for a column she conceived, and continues to write, called "The Informed Patient." In it she covers news that helps readers better navigate the health care system.
As a well-known journalist, Laura is frequently contacted by other cancer patients seeking guidance. When your health is at stake, she said, "You call in every chip you have, but sometimes it’s hard to get connected to the right people." Knowing how critical her network of supporters has been, Laura now finds it gratifying to be able to direct others to resources they can use to assemble their own teams — teams that may one day gather to celebrate more joyful milestones.
“Once you have a relationship with someplace like the Hutch you don’t want to ever lose it. Ever.”
– Laura Landro