Helen Wadford’s cancer survivorship story is so remarkable, it had become the stuff of legend. “I heard you gave one of your patients a pill and she sang at church that evening,” said a new lung cancer patient to Jennifer Garst, MD, lung cancer specialist and director of oncology clinical research at Duke Raleigh Hospital. The patient didn’t know Wadford personally, but knew her story.
Although Wadford’s triumph over cancer wasn’t quite that simple, it was dramatic enough to hearten those faced with the disease. In January 2012, the 56-year-old Louisburg, North Carolina, resident noticed a cough that she assumed was … a cough. Months later, the cough was still there, and she felt terrible. A CT scan confirmed the worst: stage 4 lung cancer.