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Story of Dave Grant


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Dave Grant

Posted by Maureen Thursday February 15, 2007 at 02:15 PM

“We have stories of great courage, and sad stories when we lose one of our own, but when we do lose one of our own, we are quick to step in and support the family members and friends.” – Dave Grant

An eloquent voice in the fight against lung cancer has been silenced, but Dave Grant’s spirit lives on loud and strong in every person he touched. Dave’s life was one of service—to his country, his family, and to the lung cancer community. Dave gave of himself and in sharing his story, he helped countless others.

And what a story it is. His is a story of great courage, undiminished by the sadness we now feel. It may be a familiar one to those who knew him but is worth remembering and recording for those who did not have the privilege.

This is Dave’s story. No one could tell it better than him; this dedication is gleaned from personal e-mails, postings on this site, and snippets of conversation. The words—even those not in quotes—are his. It is a rich story, not easily told in just a few paragraphs.

David Grant was born in Illinois on October 28, 1943. He grew up in Park Ridge, IL and graduated in the Class of 1961 from Maine Township High School East. Shortly after graduation, as the Berlin Wall was being constructed, he enlisted in the Army. In 1964, he went through advanced medical laboratory training at Fort Sam Houston, TX and was stationed in Korea until December 1966. Dave then became only the third soldier to be trained as a radioisotope (now known as nuclear medicine) technician at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego. He graduated from the program in August 1967 as his second enlistment was ending. He then worked in civilian hospitals until he re-enlisted in April 1969.

Dave was called to go to Vietnam, but when he got to Ft. Lewis, WA was told his orders to Vietnam had been cancelled and he was diverted to Japan for a two-year assignment at the 406th Medical Lab. Dave described this as “the ‘prime’ assignment for med lab specialists.” He was assigned to the blood bank at the lab until a chance encounter with personnel at the US Army Hospital, Camp Zama, in August 1969 lead to his re-assignment to their radioisotope clinic, the only US military radioisotope clinic in the Far East and Southeast Asia.

In the winddown of American involvement in Vietnam, other Army hospitals in the area closed. Camp Zama was initially “…swamped. I would work in the radioisotope clinic from 7:30 to 4:30, then…go and pull a 4-6 hour shift at Triage, where the patients were received…7 days a week.” The effect this experience had on Dave was long lasting.

“I will say this: having worked with many courageous young men in Japan, many of whom had very serious wounds and recovered…has been a great source of inspiration to help get through my many down times with Lung Cancer. When one realizes what I saw, and the severity of the wounds, and seeing the young men survive, Lung Cancer is nothing in comparison, at least from my standpoint. Every time I have gone to Washington, I have always taken the time to go and visit some of my friends, whose names appear on the Wall of the Vietnam Memorial.”

The work was tough but while on assignment: “I met a very beautiful WAC, who worked in the Hospital Commanders Office. We started dating in the summer of 1970.” Dave and Barb were married in Tokyo on January 14, 1971. Their first child, Cindy, was born in March 1972 at the same hospital Dave was stationed.

From Japan the little family moved to Hawaii for three years, where their second child, Charlie, was born. Dave was assigned to Tripler Army Medical Center as the NCO in charge of Nuclear Medicine.

After Hawaii, the family moved to Denver where Dave was assigned to the Army Oncology Center, Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. There, Dave worked with pediatric oncology patients. At the time, survival rates for children with cancer were poor and after a year, Dave had to leave. He wrote, “…my emotions were drawn very tight…in a matter of 6-8 years I went from taking care of combat casualties to pediatric cancer patients. I guess when your children are the same age as most of the children I worked with, and so many of these kids would die, it got to me.”

Thus, in 1979, Dave volunteered for recruiting duty. He spent his last four years in the service recruiting in Baraboo, WI where he retired in 1983. In mid-2006, Dave wrote this reflection: “We grew to like Baraboo and our kids were doing well in school, so we decided to stay here when I retired. We have lived on the same property (20 acres) since January 1980. In 1994 we built a log house on the 14 acre plat, and the house is surrounded be trees to the east, north, and west. To the south we have a very beautiful view of a large valley, which has stream and marsh in it. We live in the Baraboo Bluffs, which is range of ice age bluffs that runs from Oshkosh. Southwest to where the Wisconsin River dumps into the Mississippi. Our land borders, to the south, state land which is part of Devils Lake State Park. We love it here, as there is much wildlife, deer, raccoons (which we could do without), coyotes, cranes, eagles, hawks, etc.”

Dave was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), stage I on September 11, 2001 and he described the experience of learning his diagnosis and hearing about the attack on the World Trade Centers at the same time as surreal. He had surgery to remove his right lower lobe the following month, and another surgery in September 2002. At a 6-month follow-up appointment in April 2003, the cancer was back and he was re-staged to IV. “The day I was re-staged was much harder [than when diagnosed] as, with Stage I, I believed that I had a good chance of living out my life, but Stage IV, that changes the whole perspective.”

Dave then dedicated himself to supporting others with lung cancer, furthering awareness, and increasing research funds for the disease. He brought hope and inspiration to those newly diagnosed when, in 2002, he became a buddy in Lung Cancer Alliance’s Phone Buddy Program. In 2004, he became the Vice President and Director of Support and Advocacy of the first online support community for lung cancer patients and caregivers. Co-founded with Estrea Janoson, Survivors for Lung Cancer Awareness (SLCA) became Dave’s passion. Another passion was golf, and he organized the Annual Golf Outing for Lung Cancer Research for the University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center in Madison, WI.

Dave was also a strong advocate with Lung Cancer Alliance, and attended LCA’s first Advocates Conference in March, 2006. At the Capitol, he was thrilled to have his picture taken with another graduate of Maine Township High School East—Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In May, 2006, Dave met SLCA co-founder Estrea in person for the first time when they both attended a meeting in Washington DC. That August, Survivors for Lung Cancer Awareness merged with Lung Cancer Alliance and ClinicaHealth to create the LCA Survivors Community. Dave was a calm and steady presence during the transition, even as he was seeking new treatments to extend his life and continuing to provide his four keys to survival: “Attitude, Spirituality, Support, and Hope” to the community.

Dave had few, if any, regrets. “I have been to the top of Mt. Fuji, Japan, and Pikes Peak, Colorado. I have seen volcanoes erupt in Hawaii. I swam on both sides of the Pacific and in the middle as well, in Hawaii.”

“I am Stage IV and have lived over 5 years with Lung Cancer. Notice I said ‘I have lived with Lung Cancer’. That's what it is all about, learning to live with what is really a chronic disease. No one in this world has the ability or capability to predict life expectancy. It just is not possible. The Will to Live is what dictates life, not predictions of life expectancy.”

For the last long while, Dave fought this disease every single day. He tried every treatment and clinical trial available to him. He wrote, “As long as treatment is available, I will continue to be treated. Treatment gives us time. Some people have asked why I sacrifice ‘quality of life’ when I could live out my life in comfort free from the side effects of chemo. Chemo side effects, as I said, are temporary. The alternative to chemo, which is a sure death, especially at Stage IV, is permanent. I have 5 grandchildren ranging in age from 1 year to 8 years. I would like to see them grow up, graduate from high school, go to college, get married, and have their own kids. As long as I go through treatment I have an opportunity for that to happen.”

We mourn the loss of that opportunity, Dave, but celebrate your life. Please add your own thoughts and celebrations of this extraordinary man.

My comment: Dave was the first person I came in contact with back in Oct. 04, when Joel was first diagnoised. He was the one who gave me encouragement and to know that this disease is treatable. He lessen my fears right away.

He was a very special soul who helped so many out there. He Never gave Up!! He was quite a fighter.

He may lost the war but not the battle.

Peace be with you Dave.


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So very sorry to read this post about Dave. Just after Dennis was diagnosed, I was online, desperately seeking answers to so many questions in my mind. Dave was the first person to actually "be there for me" and talk to me about what was happening. I am sure that Dave and all the help and support he gave to lung caner patients and their families will be truly missed.

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