Below is Judy Newberne’s story. Sadly, Judy passed away in early December 2010. Her family felt it was important to continue sharing her story with others facing similar struggles. Judy was an amazing fighter and person, and an inspiration to all of us here at Lahey Clinic.
As vice president of regulatory affairs for a biotechnology company, Judy Newberne was at a World Health Organization meeting in Geneva five years ago to discuss a vaccine for a bioterrorism agent when she first felt terribly ill. She thought her cough and hoarseness were signs of a respiratory infection, but after returning home, when these symptoms persisted, her dad, a cancer pathologist, insisted she seek medical help.
When a workup at a Boston hospital initially showed several negative diagnostic findings, Newberne felt assured that she was not seriously ill. But subsequent testing proved otherwise. A final diagnosis was made. The 52-year-old who had smoked socially in college, and always enjoyed good health, had non-small cell adenocarcinoma.Surgery was indicated to remove what was thought to be a tumor, but the procedure was aborted when doctors discovered her lung was “stacked with nodules.” Later at a follow up appointment at the same hospital, she waited to be seen for three hours. Her doctor finally came in briefly to deliver the dismal news. “He wouldn’t look me in the eye,” Newberne remembers, as he told her there was virtually no hope.
Not willing to give up the fight, Newberne called Lahey for a second opinion. She was seen that day at the Sophia Gordon Cancer Center, where her three-hour appointment on a Friday lasted well into the evening. There was hope, after all.
Her Lahey health care team told her about a promising clinical trial for Tarceva. Ironically, Newberne had spent a lifetime overseeing clinical trials, and she needed little explanation on how they work. To be considered, she had to undergo chemotherapy. Newberne entered the trial, and got the drug. Because she had previously been tested for a genetic mutation, EGFR, and was found to be positive, the likelihood of Tarceva’s effectiveness was a higher probability. Within 48 hours after taking the drug, Newberne got better, her cough and hoarseness gone, her cancer on its way to remission. Last summer, when Newberne had another lung biopsy, she was distressed to learn a new cancer had surfaced. F.W. Nugent, MD, initiated chemotherapy and put her back on Tarceva again as recent research shows effectiveness can resume after a six month break. As she recently waited frantically for results of her latest scan, Nugent came through the door with the good news. “It is in retreat. Your cancer is on the run!” Newberne was elated.
Newberne calls her Lahey care team “brilliant” and greets them warmly every time she sees them.
Learn more about the patient-centered, high-quality approach to cancer care provided to patients diagnosed and treated at Lahey Clinic's Sophia Gordon Cancer Center.