A Lot to Live For…

Michelle Fladung has a three-year-old granddaughter. She looks forward to watching her go to her first day of kindergarten. She looks forward to a lot of future milestones for her granddaughter – milestones she plans to see in person. As Michelle says, “I have a lot to live for.”

“A lot to live for” is a commonly used phrase in our culture. Yet, it doesn’t seem overused. But then again, could this exact phrase ever actually be overused?

Overused or not, when this phrase comes out of the mouth of a stage 4 ovarian cancer survivor, it comes out in bold, italicized, underlined font. It is strong.

2014 was not a good year for Michelle Fladung. She lost her mother on October 9, 2014, had surgery to repair a hernia on October 13, 2014 and, in the process of repairing the hernia, doctors discovered she had stage 4 ovarian cancer. Yet, in retrospect, she does make note of two huge blessings:

  • Michelle is extremely thankful that her beloved mother never knew that she had cancer.
  • Had it not been for the hernia, the ovarian cancer discovery would likely have been made way too late.

They say ovarian cancer is the “silent killer.” It presents very few detectable symptoms until, too often, it is too late.  For Michelle, it was almost too late. Her type of ovarian cancer has a 17% 5-year survival rate. She is in year 4. She feels better than she has at any time over the past 3 years.  She is strong.

Michelle attributes her current good health to cancer research. Over the past three years, she has been a part of two clinical trials, leading to this most recent round of treatment – a cutting edge drug that is providing a quality of life Michelle hasn’t experienced since 2014.  In fact, it is so cutting edge, Michelle is the first patient at Duke Cancer Center to receive this treatment outside of a clinical trial.

The term “clinical trial” sounds institutionalized, but in real life, the words “clinical trial” translate into “hope.”

Lots of hope.

Hope for the future, a better future. Hope for more days and time to make memories with a granddaughter who will one day understand the strength of her grandmother.

As thanksgiving approaches, we think about all the things we are thankful for. It turns out very few of them are “things.” Most of them are people. Some of them are ideals. We are thankful for the hope that research can provide, but most of all, we are thankful for the people that research can give us more time to enjoy, people like Michelle.


To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.

Quality of Life…

Pam and Richard Sykes value quality of life. For four decades of young men, they were quality of life.

We talk a lot about the importance of raising money for cancer research. Yes, it is very important. In fact, it is critical to being able to eventually eliminate cancer. Without money for research, cancer will continue to hold our hearts in its grip.

While our focus continues to be finding a cure, the advancements that are being made are helping limit the negative side effects of treatments, enhancing quality of life.

Pam Sykes was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in the fall of 2010. The original diagnosis was nothing but positive, the second opinion agreed. It was an imaginably difficult time, but the Sykes’ were thankful it was not any worse.

On January 4, 2011, Pam went in for surgery.  The post-surgical report revealed that in the weeks since her diagnosis, her cancer had advanced. What had been stage 1 breast cancer in November, was now stage 3 in January. Lymph nodes were involved, chemotherapy would be necessary. The Sykes’ were devastated.

Quality of life. It seems simple, but ultimately it embodies every ideal we all have.

Pam reflects on the time after her first round of chemo. She truly felt like she might die. She may have even questioned whether or not taking the treatment would be worth it – but if she had doubts, her family did not. They supported her and encouraged her to persevere.

And persevere she did.

Quality of life can mean lot of things. It can mean life free of cancer. It can mean facing cancer and enduring fewer negative side effects along the way.

But there is more to life than the physical. Often times it is the mental, emotional, and spiritual boosts that we receive that really give us true quality of life.

Coach Yow liked to say, “First you receive, then you give.” When it comes to “boosts,” Pam has given and received.

For 46 years, Richard Sykes led NC State’s men’s golf team. Over that time, the Sykes opened their home and their hearts to these players, creating a family for young men to be a part of, many of whom were hundreds, if not thousands of miles from home. She created a home for them. She gave them the boost.

Since the time of her diagnosis, Pam has participated in numerous Play4Kay events at NC State – as a survivor being honored at women’s basketball’s annual Play4Kay game, doing the coin toss for the Kay Yow Spring Game for Wolfpack football, even throwing out the first pitch to open softball season one year. Pam remembers the emotion of each of those events – the boost she received.

The amazing part is that as we honor the survivors among us, we give and we receive. We give our support, the idea that no battle is fought alone. They give us hope that one day there will be less side effects, less cancer, more quality of life. We all get a boost.


To donate to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, click here.