In 2018, Lucy Huffman was diagnosed with Signet-ring cell carcinoma, a type of adenocarcinoma that starts in the glands of your body. Sadly, she passed away in August of 2020. As part of his estate planning, Lucy's husband Richard has decided to make a gift to the Colorectal Cancer Research Center of Excellence at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center and spoke with our Cancer Matters blog about their experience.
Why did you and Lucy choose the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center?
Richard Huffman: Following Lucy's diagnosis in June of 2018, we saw an oncologist in Rockville. We were told her cancer had an average survival rate of 2 ½ years. We then sought a second opinion by registering with a clinical team at Johns Hopkins, where we saw radiation oncologist, Dr. Amol Narang, in October of 2018 and other members of the team. When her chemotherapy was finished in Rockville, that oncologist wanted to wait three months before doing any scans to assess her progress. We said that was not good enough. That's when we decided to meet the medical oncologist on Lucy's Johns Hopkins team because they are one of the leading centers for cancer research and treatment in the entire world, and we made an appointment with Dr. Nilofer Azad.
What was unique about the treatment you received from Dr. Azad?
Richard Huffman: We met Dr. Azad for the first time in June of 2019. We immediately found her warm and engaging. She understood completely that with Lucy’s signet-ring cells we did not want to wait and see but continue to be active. She prescribed oral chemotherapy. She was clear that research suggested it may or may not be helpful but worth a try. This “try” allowed us to go to California and the Grand Canyon, a place Lucy always wanted to see, in the fall of 2019.
Dr. Azad was also so helpful to me personally in calls we had in the summer of 2020 when the numerous treatments we were trying were no longer working. Dr. Azad helped me understand that it was really better to focus on giving Lucy the best quality of life in the time she had remaining than put her through more agonizing treatments. She guided me, and I came to understand and accept that current research could do nothing more for my wife. I had to let her go her own way with the least amount of suffering. Lucy passed with excellent hospice care at our home on August 27, 2020.
What do you hope becomes of your gift to the Kimmel Cancer Center?
Richard Huffman: I hope Dr. Azad and her team can continue to research treatments for Signet-ring cell carcinoma.