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Dana Reeve’s Sister Takes On Lung Cancer - Parts 1 and 2


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DEBORAH MOROSINI, MD

A Legacy of Hope and Forging Ahead:

Dana Reeve’s Sister Steps Up to Take On the Tragedy of Lung Cancer

After her sister Dana Reeve died of lung cancer, days before her 45th birthday, Deborah Morosini took up her sister’s legacy of strength, courage and a willingness to find hope in what to the world may seem the impossible.

A mother of two and a medical doctor, Deborah stepped up in her sister’s memory, and on behalf of all who have been affected by lung cancer, to get a jump on this not-so-silent killer. Recently, she joined forces with our Foundation to raise a loud collective voice in the fight against this deadly disease.

In just a little more than a year, her crusade has led to unforgettable lessons of hope, frustration and a maze of funding, government and stigma roadblocks that cloud the issue and keep treatment and cures for this deadly cancer elusive. She’s determined to raise public awareness of lung cancer to step up research and support for the cause. She is unstoppable.

Here is her story told in the first of two-parts:

After her sister Dana Reeve died of lung cancer, days before her 45th birthday, Deborah Morosini took up her sister’s legacy of strength, courage and a willingness to find hope in what to the world may seem the impossible.

A mother of two and a medical doctor, Deborah stepped up in her sister’s memory, and on behalf of all who have been affected by lung cancer, to get a jump on this not-so-silent killer. Recently, she joined forces with our Foundation to raise a loud collective voice in the fight against this deadly disease.

In just a little more than a year, her crusade has led to unforgettable lessons of hope, frustration and a maze of funding, government and stigma roadblocks that cloud the issue and keep treatment and cures for this deadly cancer elusive. She’s determined to raise public awareness of lung cancer to step up research and support for the cause. She is unstoppable.

Here is her story told in the first of two-parts:

In August, of 2005, Deborah Morosini and her husband Charlie and sons, James 17, and Peter, 15, were at Logan International Airport in Boston, shuffling through security and biding time waiting to embark on a family vacation to India.

Glancing up at the television monitors, Deborah and her family would be reminded, over and over and over again, of the crushing news the world was just learning: Dana Reeve, 44, wife of Superman Christopher Reeve, Deborah’s little sister, and the boys’ aunt, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

“It all happened in such public way,” says Deborah. “Being stuck at an airport with the news repeating it over and over, was just not a great place to be. It was devastating.”

Seven months later, Dana, tireless crusader for paralysis, mother extraordinaire for her son Will, and “Mother of the Year for the American Cancer Society,” would lose her battle with lung cancer. A nation, now glued to their televisions again, would express their shock and mourn deeply the loss of Dana, who they had come to embrace as the epitome of a woman filled with grace, courage, and determination.

It’s fair to say, that for those of us watching from a distance, yet feeling it so closely in our hearts, it seemed so unfair.

“Life isn’t supposed to happen the way it was for our family,” says Deborah. “Chris had died. My mother had just died, and now Dana was diagnosed with lung cancer.

“I realized then that you become a survivor the moment you are diagnosed. You decide right now this is all happening, but my sister is still alive, yes she is really sick. But we need to live in the moment. She is still here and we need to put our worries aside.”

Certainly, Dana and Christopher Reeve had become public icons of survival, and inspirations for the world to draw strength from, following the 1995 horseback riding accident that left Christopher a vent-dependent quadriplegic. Together, with their laser-like focus on paralysis and stem cell research, the couple and the forces they rallied shone a spotlight on an injury for which research was poorly funded. They made it a cause.

Now, for the second time, the world would focus their lens on a disease that for a long time has been swept under carpet as the stigma cancer.

“From Chris we were inspired, okay, see what happened with this, now we might be able to make a shift in the way we look at lung cancer,” says Deborah.

And these days, when she’s not at work researching cancer as a pathologist at AstraZeneca, or taking care of her two teen sons, Deborah has made it her life’s passion and mission to speak to audiences, legislators - anyone who will listen about the terrible tragedy of her sister’s death, and the tragedy of lung cancer and treatment, or lack of it today.

“My sister and Chris created a positive legacy. They showed the world that out of crisis, you can make a life; you can have a sense of humor and not fall apart. They touched so many people … people including myself who maybe looked at them, and said, ‘okay, I can get through this … I can remain optimistic.”

Most importantly, Dana and Christopher Reeve showed the world that despite illness, despite fate, despite forces we can’t control, the only thing you can control is what you leave behind.

“My sister and Chris did not leave a suffering legacy. They have a young child, Will, and they both were committed to living to the last second. They both had very many bright moments until the very end. ”

Part Two: Learn what Dr. Deborah Morosini and lung cancer advocates are doing to make a difference.

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From center stage in New York City with Jerry Seinfeld, to the streets of San Francisco, to Detroit radio blasts, Deborah Morosini, MD, is on a mission: to honor her sister, Dana Reeve, and all of those affected by lung cancer by speaking anywhere and everywhere she can to raise funds for research and the awareness of lung cancer.

As the newest board member for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, this mom of two teenage boys, and physician researcher for a major pharmaceutical on the East Coast, is trotting coast-to-coast to cities across the country with one message: “It is time to wipe out lung cancer. Nothing less is acceptable.”

As the older sister of Dana, Deborah has made it her crusade to carry on her sister’s legacy of caring and compassion. As the third generation of doctors in her family – her father is a physician and her grandfather was a doctor too, Deborah works every day as a physician researcher at AstraZeneca trying to find cures for cancer.

All of this comes together to make Deborah a powerful voice for our Foundation. You can hear her emotional plea that “lung cancer matters too,” on more than 1,000 radio stations across the country from Odessa, Texas to New York City. Here’s a glimpse at what Deborah is saying on Public Service Announcements on behalf of our Foundation:

“Somebody just died…while you’re listening to me. And that somebody is somebody’s sister, brother, mom, dad, daughter, son or friend. 450 people die a day. 19 an hour. From Lung Cancer.

Six-hundred and fifty thousand people will die of the world’s DEADLIEST cancer by the year 2010 if we don’t do something now. Where’s the outrage? Lung Cancer Matters Too.

It’s not what you think. It’s not what you’ve heard. Don’t believe that if you don’t smoke you can NEVER get lung cancer. I’m Deborah Morosini and I lost my sister, Dana Reeve, to lung cancer.

Please help us save lives at the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. Because we can.”

Deborah is passionate with her message. You can hear it on the airwaves on behalf of our Foundation, and you can hear it in her voice. There is urgency about Deborah, a mission to talk about the tragedy of a lack of funding for research and awareness about this deadly killer. It drives her to the speaker circuit, hoping that if she shouts loud enough, someone will listen, somehow we can beat the mortality rates and battle the ignorance about the facts of lung cancer.

And, she’s also on the appearance circuit getting our Foundation’s message out. During the months ahead, her mission accelerates:

• On October 11, she’ll take the stage on an “Evening with Jerry Seinfeld,” at the Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 W. 34th St. in New York. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The event is being organized by Stand Up For a Cure.

• She’s also doing a pod cast for “Smoke Free Michigan,” for the American Cancer Society. Smoke Free is a grass roots statewide organization working for smoke-free environments wherever the public gathers in this Midwestern state. Deborah will make her plea.

• And she’s coming to San Francisco in November as one of our guests for the Simply the Best Gala: On November 9, Deborah will accept an award in her sister’s behalf at our second annual “Simply the Best Dinner Gala II” at the Fairmont Hotel. SIMPLY THE BEST II celebrates the end of lung cancer through the eyes of the very best doctors, families and friends of our cause because lung cancer matters too.

• On November 30, she will speak at the “State of the Art Lung Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Medical and Advocacy Conference” at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan. Her presentation: “Icons of Survival: The Positive Legacy of Dana and Christopher Reeve.” Her participation will provide a valuable opportunity for lung health professionals and individuals affected by lung cancer to hear from the most highly respected experts in the field. The program is sponsored by the American Lung Association of Michigan and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.

“I can’t speak enough; I can’t do enough, until we’re taken seriously and the tragedy of lung cancer is over,” says Deborah.

Dr.Fred Marcus to Present the “Simply the Best Award” to Deborah Morosini

“Lung cancer not only takes victims—it takes parts of whole families that can never be replaced.”–Dr. Fred Marcus

As a physician specializing in Pathology, Dr. Deborah Morosoni has sat behind the microscope to make the very unfortunate diagnosis of lung cancer. Her first-hand experience–previously only from a distance–became up-close and very personal when her 44-year old younger sister, Dana Reeve, was diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2005.

Dana was a very talented actor and singer who had never smoked a single cigarette. Dana’s professional career was put on an abrupt hold, when her husband, Christopher Reeve suffered a severe and debilitating Spinal Cord injury after a tragic fall from his horse. Dana dedicated her life to helping Christopher with his disability and the two of them founded the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation to help other victims of spinal cord injuries.

A bright light went out on March 6, 2006, when Dana died from lung cancer. This very moment ignited a new light and on the very same day, Bonnie J. Addario began this Lung Cancer Foundation.

Despite every effort to provide the best medical care for Dana, Deborah halted her career to help her sister in dealing with this illness. After Dana’s death, Deborah decided to go on a mission that would honor her sister and one day bring an end to the tragedy of lung cancer. Deborah decided that she would stand up for all those affected with lung cancer and do everything she can to call attention to the fact that lung cancer is the major cause of cancer deaths in this country and in this world and that every effort and as much funding as possible needs to be mobilized to eradicate lung cancer.

Deborah’s enormous energy and passion for this mission is completely reflective of Dana’s care and compassion. Dana would be so proud of her sister’s dedication to this cause.

As recipient of the very first “Simply the Best Award,”Dr. Fred Marcus has been searching his soul for just the right individual to bestow this great honor upon this year. Conceived to honor those like Marcus by Bonnie J. Addario, this award is intended to honor outstanding performance in the fight to end lung cancer.

This award sends a powerful message, not only to the entire world audience that will soon know about the devastation of lung cancer through the work of this Foundation, but to the individual that receives it. It acknowledges and honors all they have done and all they are continuing to do to make this world a better place. BJALCF Board Member, Dr.Deborah Morosini, is the recipient of this year’s SIMPLY THE BEST award in honor of all of the spirit, compassion, dedication, boundless energy, and unfettered conviction she beholds, to save as many lives as she can through raising awareness of early detection, and ultimately the eradication of lung cancer.

“Think how many things in this country have been considered hopeless before? At first they seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then if you can summon the will and get the funding–they become inevitable.”–Christopher Reeve

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