Feeling Blessed … Again … and Always

Fair Day!

There are actually very few days that I wake up and do not feel blessed. And, for that, I am very thankful. My nature is to look on the bright side of life, which makes me a much happier person than I could be!

But, today’s entry has to do with just how fortunate I really am to still be here among the living.

We know the stats … only 17% of the 221,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 will still be here on earth in 5 years. Get a stage IV diagnosis and that percentage drops into the single digits. Scary stuff, lung cancer.

Consider me lucky because I happen to know several people who are 5+ year survivors. I hope to know more and more as those I know pass that milestone. I have 2 more years before I celebrate 5 years. Every day that passes, I get closer!!

I entered this immunotherapy trial I am in back in July 2013. It was, essentially, a last ditch effort to stay alive. Last week, I sat for my 55th or 56th infusion. 26 months.

My doctor and my immunotherapy clinical trial have been in the news this week. My doctor is a co-author on a major international study … which just happens to be covering the trial I am in.

This article, http://www.dddmag.com/news/2015/09/bmss-nivolumab-opdivo-extends-survival-rate-lung-kidney-cancer, has a paragraph in it that really brings home how special it is that I remain among the living.

At one year after treatment, 51 percent of the 292 patients treated with nivolumab, a PD-1 immune checkpoint inhibitor, survived, compared with 39 percent of the 290 patients treated with docetaxel. At 18 months, survival was 39 percent among those treated with nivolumab and 23 percent among patients treated with docetaxel, the study found.

Wow. Only about 119 of the nearly 300 who started this study were still alive after 18 months. I wonder how many remained after 24 months? I know that I am the only person in the Dallas area that remains in my trial. That’s been true for at least the last 12 months. I never really considered the fact that the others may have died. I just thought they got out of the trial. I hope that’s all that happened.

The press release featuring my doctor (with a little quote from me!) can be found at http://www.newswise.com/articles/immunotherapy-superior-to-chemotherapy-for-lung-cancer-in-international-trial-involving-ut-southwestern-cancer-researchers.

I don’t know why God has chosen to leave me here on this earth. I am glad He has. I am not really ready to die. I am having a great time here. But, heck, the alternative is surely not something to dread when you believe like I do. Streets of gold and living in the presence of Jesus … not a bad gig at all 😃😃!

Still, every day I am made more and more aware of just how fortunate I am to still be alive. And, I resolve to be even more diligent in bringing to the attention of everyone I know, whether they want to hear it or not, the fact that lung cancer happens – to anyone with lungs – and it is deadly. We need more research funding. Lots and lots more research funding. For me … and for everyone who comes behind me.

Why Me? Why Not Me?

I titled this blog entry back in May 2015, but never came back to it. Maybe today is a good day to work on it.

I play on a number of sites where people post questions and thoughts and I am often struck by the “woe is me” attitude. It doesn’t come just from people afflicted with an illness or who have lost someone to disease or tragedy. It comes from people who strain a muscle and have to recuperate or have a dog who can’t run agility or who just don’t think life is fair to them for any number of reasons. Why me? Why me?

Bad things happen to good people … and good things happen to bad people. That’s how life is. Our reaction to them is what makes us different.

So … I ask, “Why me?” Why did I have to get lung cancer when I was the happiest, most active, and healthiest of my life??? What’s fair about that?

There’s nothing fair about life. It just is what it is. We all have our trials and tribulations. And, when we are going through them, they seem huge to us. Even if they don’t seem so big to others.

I find myself mostly asking, when I even bother to think about it, is not “why me?” but, “why NOT me?” Or, “if not me, then who?” Would I wish some horrible tragedy to befall someone else to spare myself? If it worked that way. Which, of course, it does not. But, if it did. I have to tell you that if God had come to me and said, “Either you or someone of your choosing is going to fight lung cancer. Choose who.” I would choose me. I could never wish it on someone else. Not even a someone I am not fond of.

So, why not me?

My mother was very proud that I was asked to go to Washington to speak. She told all of her friends about it. They couldn’t understand why me. They all know people with cancer. And those people weren’t asked to go.

So, why me? I questioned that myself. It really was an exceptional opportunity,  so why me?? There are hundreds of thousands of others who could have been asked. Many would have been a better choice: younger, prettier, more vivacious, better speaker… Why me?

I am certain I am not the only person to wonder!!

But, does the question not also beg of itself, “why not me?” Am I less deserving because I am old, ugly, and not a public speaker? Does that make my story worthless?

So, why not me?

There you have it!! The question works both ways … good and bad, bad and good.

Washington, DC – The Tour … and More

I posted about my exciting Wednesday (9/16/2015) in Washington, DC, but I have more memories and pictures besides that one very awesome day!

I want to be able to relive it again and again … so am writing about it now so that I will remember everything in the days to come. Chemo brain … old age … a combination??? I don’t know, but my old noggin doesn’t necessarily retain thoughts and memories like it once did.

I’m not complaining! I just have to make concessions and do things differently so that I have ways to jog the memories.

So, without further adieu, let’s get on with the story!

I arrived in DC on my birthday, 9/15, around one o’clock. I was so grateful that AACR allowed me to go a day early so that I had time to rest and relax … and do some sightseeing! There was no time for sightseeing on the two days that I was there to work.

Politically incorrect or not, Redskin merchandise is everywhere!!

Our – the Dallas Cowboys – arch rivals have DC as their home. Needless to say, when I disembarked from the plane, I entered Redskin Country! There’s a lot of debate about the name of the team, but for now, it remains, the Washington Redskins.

Mandarin Oriental

I was so blessed. AACR contracted for a limo to pick me up at the airport and whisk me to the Mandarin Oriental – my home away from home for 2 nights. It is a gorgeous hotel, exceptional staff, great location, and unbelievable views!



The view out of my room’s window. Jefferson Memorial, Pentagon, and an Air Force monument. Gorgeous! Day or night!


The room itself was not all that exceptional – nice but not that different from most (though, those beds and pillows – VERY comfy!!!!)


The room wasn’t special, but the bathroom sure was!!! It was fabulous! I don’t take baths very often at all, but I took a nice hot bath one night and it was great!


Nice! Separate shower! With fantastic water pressure (better than home!)!


Anyone who knows me will appreciate this one – I love paper and pens!! 🙂 They had nice pens at this hotel!

I ate a few times in the hotel restaurant – the Muze – where the staff was impeccable and the food fabulous!!! I was amazed that they held the restaurant open for me after hours when I arrived. You would have never guessed the staff was working late – they were so friendly and anxious to serve. I ate a crabcake sandwich which was delicious!!!

On Wednesday morning, I returned to the Muze for breakfast, prior to beginning my big day! I am so glad I did since breakfast had to last me until we arrived at the reception that evening. I was hungry, but not as famished as I would have been otherwise! I ate some Eggs Benedict with salmon – again, to die for!!! Wish I had some about right now!!!!! Now, the $8 coffee … it was good … but $8???? If I had looked at the price of coffee, I can assure you I would have been satisfied with water!!!

Night-Time Tour

The last time I was in DC, I didn’t get a chance to see the sights at all. This time, I was fortunate enough to get to go on a night-time tour. I still haven’t seen everything I hope to see in DC, but I got to see a lot. For that, I am very grateful.

I took a ton of pictures and I’m going to post a whole lot of them here. It is an easy way for me to find them and to see them. I hope you enjoy them, too! The tour began at  Union Station. I got there early, so I spent some time exploring.


Union Station – You can catch a train here … or tour buses


Across the street from Union Station



Union Station


Securities and Exchange Commission Building


Union Station – the flags of the Nation


The ceiling inside Union Station – amazing! More than 120,000 sheets of 24-K gold leafing was used to restore the ceiling!!



Many people of all types use the trains! It is a great place to people-watch!
Catch a train, eat, or shop! This is a one -stop center!! And, isn’t it gorgeous? I love the staircase.


Amid the opulence of gold-leafed ceilings, the Nation’s homeless…

The buildings in DC are just so gorgeous. So old and yet so well maintained. It is incredible! There is a feeling when in the Nation’s Capitol that you just don’t feel when you’re in Dallas or Houston or Denver. Power, awe, history … something!

So, the night tour took us either past or to several of the monuments. I have a big desire to see the World War II Memorial, but that desire remains. I didn’t get to see it on this trip either. Maybe next time.

Buckeye – our tour director. He was formerly a school teacher. He was very entertaining and extremely knowledgeable. He was definitely a people-person! He wanted to know a little something about each of us.



The skies, as they turned dark, were gorgeous!

We drove by Memorials and stopped for three. My camera did a pretty good job of capturing scenes as we drove by!  The pictures above were taken through the bus window.  I sat near the bus front door. I might have had better vision and clearer shots if I hadn’t sat down so quickly.

The Washington Monument

I took lots and lots of shots of the Washington Monument. I don’t quite know why, but it fascinates me. Amazingly, you can see this 555-foot marble obelisk that honors our Nation’s first President from all over DC.  I didn’t realize that until the night I took this tour.

I never got close to it. In fact, I had no idea that you could get tickets to go up inside of it. What an awesome experience that would be!! The following quote is copied from Recreation.gov:

Visitors enter the Monument and then ascend via elevator to the 500-foot level to behold sweeping views of the city. Captivating exhibits on the 500- and 490-foot levels illuminate the contrast between historic photographs and modern views, while inviting you to learn more about Washington — the man, the engineering marvel of the Monument, and the design of the city named in his honor. On descent, visitors have the unique experience of viewing selected commemorative stones expressing the sentiments of generations past awed by Washington’s impressive leadership.

Another Monument to add to my Bucket List!!!! Seeing it from afar is grand enough! But, seeing it up close sounds like an experience to remember! Tickets are required if you are going to enter the Monument.



This photo was taken when standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Washington Memorial sits directly across from it. Notice how the Capitol is also visible.


This picture was taken while we were visiting the FDR Memorial. I thought it was really pretty through the leaves of the tree.

FDR Memorial

The Memorial that honors Franklin Delano Roosevelt covers 7-1/2 acres, which makes it the largest Presidential Memorial on the National Mall. This is a relatively new Memorial. It didn’t open until 1997. It covers the four terms that FDR served as President.

Stricken by polio in 1921, FDR never again walked unaided. I learned tonight that only 5% of those who contracted polio suffered with long-term effects from the disease. Only 1% were permanently crippled by it. My uncle was one of those permanently crippled, as was FDR.




This statute depicts a citizen listening to one of FDR’s famous Fireside Chats. Despite vast poverty affecting our Nation during the Great Depression, citizens remained hopeful for better times.
At the same time, the citizens of our Nation were starving. The deep despair of the Nation was depicted by the bread line. (Unfortunately, I was unable to get a photo when the teens were not acting silly as part of the Memorial. They have no clue what they are laughing at.)
Yes! And this remains true today. Though, in my opinion, socialism is not the answer.


Apparently, FDR loved water. There are waterfalls and pools throughout the Memorial. It provides a peaceful feeling. It also helps cover the noise of Washington’s Reagan National Airport that is nearby.


Naturally, this is my favorite of the statutes! FDR and his Scottie dog, Fala. He was a constant companion of the President. Fala outlived FDR, but was buried beside him when he passed. He is the only dog that earned the permanent honor of being depicted in a National Memorial.


Eleanor played an important role as First Lady as well as the first U.S. Delegate to the United Nations.


Visiting this Memorial at night was striking. However, I am not certain we saw it all. I think we did not. We were not given but a few minutes at each stop so we had to hurry as we viewed them.

The Martin Luther King Memorial is nearby, but I wasn’t entirely sure where. I apparently spent too much time enjoying the FDR Memorial so I did not see it. If I get to go again, I hope I can spend more time at the FDR Memorial and can find the MLK Memorial, as well.

Back to the bus!! A traffic jam caused us to divert first to the Marine Corps War Memorial, instead of the Lincoln Memorial, as planned.

U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial

My husband, brother, son, and cousin are all U.S. Marines so I have a real soft spot in my heart for anything Marine! This Memorial is certainly no exception! I had seen it several times, but never had the opportunity to get out and get up close to it. I was very glad our bus tour took us there and gave us 15 minutes or so to enjoy it.



This statute cost $850,000 and was paid for by the US Marine Corps, friends of the Marine Corps, and members of the Naval Service. Dedicated on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the USMC, no public funds were used for its creation




According to the National Park Service, “The US Marine Corps War Memorial is located on Arlington Ridge along the axis of the National Mall. A panorama of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol Building are visible from its grounds.” I did not notice the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument or the Capitol when we were  at the Memorial. I must have been too focused on the Memorial itself.

Lincoln Memorial

Maybe one of the most famous of the Memorials, we visited the Lincoln Memorial last. During this visit, we also had a moment to spend at the Korean War Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial was said to be nearby, but I was unclear about where it was. I didn’t have time to visit it anyway. The night tour was awesome in many ways, but choices had to be made since the time was so limited.


Such an imposing structure! It was designed by Henry Bacon. Construction began in 1914 and the Memorial opened in 1922.  The cost of this huge Memorial was $3 million.

The 36 columns represent the 36 states in the Union when Lincoln was assassinated. The Memorial has 58 steps. They represent the two terms Lincoln served as President, plus the age of the President when he was assassinated. This famous building is featured on the back of the penny and the $5 bill!



Our 16th President, Lincoln is credited with saving the Union. Before construction of the Lincoln Memorial, there were no plans to honor any President besides our first President, George Washington.


Gettysburg Address


The Lincoln Memorial sits directly across the Mall from the Washington Monument.

We made a quick trip down beside the Reflecting Pool to find the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It gave me chills. The pictures still do.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

Dedicated on July 27, 1995, the Korean War Veterans Memorial commemorates the 5.8 million troops who served in the U.S. armed services from June 25, 1950 until July 27, 1953. During that time, 36,574 Americans were killed and 103,284 were wounded.



There are 19 stainless steel statutes, each approximately 7 feet tall. They represent an ethnic cross section of America and include 14 Army, 3 Marine, 1 Navy, and 1 Air Force members. You can’t see them in these night-time pictures, but the statutes are standing in patches of juniper bushes and are separated by polished granite strips. They symbolize the rice paddies of Korea. The ponchos worn by the troops seem to be blowing in the wind, symbolizing the cold winds suffered while fighting in Korea.


The Mural Wall is comprised of 41 panels and include 2400 photographs from the Korean War that were obtained from the National Archives. I would love to see the mural in the daylight. It depicts Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard personnel and equipment.

The tour was nearly over. I managed to snap a few more pictures as we headed back to Union Station.

The Lockkeeper’s House. This is the only thing remaining from the C&O Canal Extension. The lockkeeper collected tolls and kept the records of commerce on the canal. What made this interesting to me is that the lockkeeper and his 13 children lived in this house between 1835 and 1855!! The canal was filled in 1872.


The original Post Office. The building has been leased by Donald Trump and is being renovated into a world class hotel.



Unfortunately, I have no clue what this beautiful building is. Maybe someone else does?


Buckeye told us the story behind this statute, but I have forgotten what it was. Anyone know?

I am so glad that I had the opportunity to see Washington, DC at night. It not only kept me from obsessing about the speech I had to give the following day, it allowed me to see monuments and memorials that I had either never seen or hadn’t seen in many years. I hope that the next time I go to DC, I can go as a tourist for at least a full day or two. Unfortunately, it is very, very expensive to stay in DC. On the other hand, all of the memorials and the Smithsonians are free to attend.

I hope you have enjoyed this tour as much as I did!

Wow!! Washington, DC … Here I Come!

Lately, my life has taken some strange twists and turns. And, in the process, I have gained memories that will last a lifetime.

I am certain I should not say that I am happy I have Stage IV lung cancer. And, the reality is, that I would give up all of the experiences I am about to tell you about NOT to have lung cancer. But, as long as I do … what a ride it has been!!!!

The Beginning

About a year ago, I decided to participate in the Breathe Deep DFW 2014 walk in Arlington, TX. It was an event sponsored by LUNGevity … I had never heard of LUNGevity and I had never before participated in an event similar to this one. But, I made myself go, despite the fact that I didn’t know a soul who was going to be there and had no one to go with me.




I got there early. I walked around and took some pictures … and generally felt a little ill at ease. I am not a person that goes to events like this all by myself. Why I did on this November morning, I will never know. God was directing me. That’s the only possible explanation.

While I was at the event, I met some awesome people. One was Katie Brown, who was responsible for the entire event. She is also a VP with LUNGevity. It was through Katie that I learned about a Regional HOPE Summit that would soon be held in Irving and a National HOPE Summit that would be held in Washington, DC.

The summits bring together lung cancer survivors. They have food, speakers, food, and fun. As the names state – the summits are all about HOPE. Because, as deadly as lung cancer is, there are quite a few survivors out there. Some of us are making it! HOPE!!!

The Irving summit was free. Once again, I stepped outside of my comfort zone and attended. Robert went with me … at least for a little while. I had an enjoyable time, meeting other lung cancer survivors, hearing what the guest speakers had to say, eating some good food…!

I learned more about the National Summit that is held every year in Washington, DC. The Foundation pays for first time attendees to go – airfare and hotel room!! Last year, there was a small $50 fee to attend. I wanted to go!!!

I had so much fun at the National Summit. I met so many other survivors there. Some had been recently diagnosed; some have been surviving for many years. Some were young, some older. Some smokers, some not. A diverse group of people brought together by disease. So, we shared one thing in common – the burning desire to fight – and to fight HARD – to beat this formidable foe.

There was a lot of laughter and plenty of good times at both Summits. There were super people everywhere. And great food. And informative speakers. Very informative speakers. We have lung cancer, but we also have lots of reasons to have hope. That’s the message … and that’s the truth.

So. The journey begins! A walk in Arlington, TX. A HOPE Summit in Irving, Texas. An annual HOPE Summit in Washington, DC … a connection to LUNGevity.


As anyone who reads my blog knows, I have been getting immunotherapy for over two years. I asked the nurse yesterday how many treatments I have received. Yesterday was number 56. Which might actually only be number 55 in reality. I had to miss one treatment because I broke my arm and had to have surgery just weeks after beginning the clinical trial. Either way – a lot! I am nearly certain I am the only person in the trial in the Dallas area and that that has been the case for at least a year. Maybe longer.

You will never meet a bigger proponent for immunotherapy or clinical trials. I have gained my life back because I took that step and joined a clinical trial. I am so lucky because for some reason, I am that person that the immunotherapy really, REALLY works well for.

Well, the fact that I am in a clinical trial and doing well on immunotherapy has opened some big doors for me. BIG doors! Some of them, scary doors!

Katie Brown … of LUNGevity fame … asked on our LUNGevity Facebook group several months ago if anyone was receiving immunotherapy. I quickly raised my hand – again, I love immunotherapy!!

American Association for Cancer Research

The next thing I know, I got an email from the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). They wanted my story. I said, “sure.” I thought they wanted me to sit down and write a blurb about my experiences with immunotherapy. I expected to spend a half day or so writing and perfecting. I thought I would send it away and that would be that.

Except, I was thinking wrong.

The AACR didn’t want me to write my story. They wanted me to TELL my story. To a video camera and still camera. To people. Uh. No. I don’t DO public speaking. I just don’t.

I grew far less interested. I am camera-shy and I do not … do not … do public speaking. Even when that public speaking is in my living room to only a few people.

So, I started just not answering emails from AACR. Because camera crews (still and video) were not my cup of tea. And not at my house … I HATE to clean house…

Well, responses to emails or not, the AACR was moving forward with plans to come to my house to video me telling my story. I got an email on a Monday that the film crew would arrive at my house the following Wednesday at 10 AM.

There really was no backing down at this point.

I should say that the AACR is an AWESOME organization. It has been around since 1907. It is the oldest foundation in American dedicated to cancer research. Some of the best minds in the US are involved with it. This is no rinky-dink organization I am dealing with!

Film Crew Arrives

So, on that Wednesday, I got up early to do a little cleaning. I finished early, so I fixed Robert and me some breakfast. I was washing dishes when the phone rang and I was informed the film crew was there. Over an hour before I expected them. I hadn’t even had my shower yet!

Thank goodness I am not a worrier! Much of a worrier, anyway. I just told them I would be out as soon as possible – I had to get a shower!

It was a ton of fun to do the photo shoot and video. I have never … and will probably never again … had such an experience.  I had a blast.

The interview, photos, and filming took about 5 hours. The editors managed to get a single page story and a 4:27 minute video! Amazing work because they managed to capture me well, especially in the video.

Here are the results:

http://cancerprogressreport.org/2015/Pages/fernandez.aspx?Page=0 (written story)

My story joins the stories of 49 other cancer survivors. Every year, for the past five years, the AACR has featured 10 survivors in their annual Cancer Progress Reports. I am featured in the 2015 report. It is an awesome report. If you are interested in facts about cancer, you’ll be interested in seeing the entire report: http://www.cancerprogressreport-digital.org/cancerprogressreport/2015?pg=1#pg1

Washington, DC – Capitol Hill

I was told I would get a subscription to a magazine produced by AACR for participating in the video project. So, imagine my surprise when I got an email inviting me to attend the release of the report on Capitol Hill as a guest of the AACR.

I quickly responded that I would love to come to DC to attend the release!
In a day or two, I got another email. I was asked if I would make myself available to the press … and … would I be interested in being a presenter during the release of the report on Capitol Hill?
Hello???? Remember??? This is Donna. She is NOT a public speaker. Not even close. And you want her to speak for FIVE MINUTES to top government officials on CAPITOL HILL???

Speak in WASHINGTON, DC??? ME??????????????

Well, I said I would be happy to make myself available to the press, but I was the wrong person to do the speech. I cannot emphasize enough – I am NOT a public speaker. If I was, I would have a lot more money than I do right now because I was given many opportunities to give workshops about grant writing. Because of my extreme fear of public speaking, those workshops didn’t go well … and I quit even trying. And now, you’re asking me to speak on CAPITOL HILL????

I was encouraged again to speak. I can’t understand why. And, I really can’t believe I agreed to do so. But I did. And, I was really glad that I did.


I was only given five minutes to speak. That sounded like a LOT of time when I was first told I had that long. But, trust me, getting a speech down to just five minutes is a challenge! Especially for someone as verbose as I am! But, I did it … at least within a few seconds.
I prayed. Lots of people prayed. I practiced. Thank God for good friends who were willing to help me – read the speech, comment on it, listen to it … When I went to Capitol Hill, I was prepared. And God did the rest – He kept me calm and allowed me to speak with little fear.



See the dog? That’s Tank. He belongs to my awesome agility instructor, Ed Scharringhausen. Despite being very busy getting ready for an inaugural agility trial on Luke’s Field, Ed took the time to help me edit my speech … and to listen to me read it. When I was reading it to Ed, my friend Linda, and their dogs, Tank sensed my fear. He doesn’t really know me, but he knew I was really nervous. So, he got up and came across the room to sit right in front of me. He sat tall and straight for the entire speech. I petted him and relaxed some.

I mentioned that I wished he could go with me to Washington. Well, he obviously couldn’t go, so I took the next best thing. His picture. And he sat right there on the table beside my speech the entire time.

Looking out into the room on Capitol Hill before my speech



The speech went so much better than I could have ever, ever anticipated. All of the prayers worked! I had many people seek me out later. They told me that my speech made them cry, that they connected with me, that they didn’t know WHY I said I wasn’t a public speaker (if they only knew…)…

The fact is, my speech made me cry too. I just barely was able to tell the audience about Kiersten Dickson, my young friend who died at only 20 from lung cancer. It is a good thing I saved her story for the end. I hope at least one heart was touched enough by what I had to say to fight for more funding for medical research, especially for research benefiting those of us with lung cancer.


Washington, DC – The White House!!!

It seemed like every time I opened my email, I was surprised by something else exciting! I just grinned from ear to ear when I opened the email that said the AACR and the survivors attending the release of the 2015 Cancer Progress Report were invited to a meeting at the White House!! You have just got to be kidding me!

We rushed … and I do mean rushed … from Capitol Hill to the White House. It isn’t good to be late to a meeting at the White House. But we were.

There were long lines waiting to get through security to get into the building. The building that wasn’t white, I might add. I was very confused.



I thought maybe we had to pass through this building to get into the White House?? I kept saying, “But this building is not White!!” Well … our meeting with Obama’s Domestic Policy staff was technically NOT in the White House, I was disappointed to learn. We actually met in this gorgeous building – the Executive Offices, which are right next door to, but are not, the White House!

As I said, the lines were long. Full of people – important and self-important. They were not all that happy when our group was whisked in front of them! At least one of those standing in the heat waiting his turn to go through security was a governor of some state. I forget which one. I am sure he couldn’t understand why we got preferential treatment. I’m not quite sure why either, but we did!

Once we were through the three levels of security, we were finally on our way to our meeting.

The ceiling in the vestibule. All different. All gorgeous!


Long, shiny hallways. Notice the gold handrails on the stairs.  The young lady was one of those we met on the President’s Domestic Policy Staff.

The building was very quiet. Very uninhabited. I wasn’t sure how many pictures I could get by with taking so I didn’t take a lot. I didn’t want my camera confiscated! (As it turns out, I think it would have been fine to take as many as I wished. But, to say I was a little intimidated is an understatement!)

Our meeting was a good one. It was relatively small. AACR staff, Obama’s staffers, and cancer survivors – all beneficiaries of the latest and greatest cancer research.


Green “Appointment” tags for US citizens; pink for non-citizens. If your tag wasn’t green, you had to be escorted everywhere. Even with our green tags, we were escorted everywhere! I wore a pretty blue jacket, but it was warm in the Executive Offices! Conserving energy, I suppose.
The four women in the middle of the picture are members of Obama’s Domestic Policy Staff. They are young … smart and powerful. And as nice as could be.


AACR leaders.

Our meeting probably lasted 45 minutes or an hour. I honestly failed to look at my watch so couldn’t say for sure. I felt like the young women were willing to take as much time as needed for the meeting to be a success. I didn’t ask anyone from the AACR staff, but my guess is that they did feel it was a very successful meeting. Had I been one of them, I would have been very pleased. Obama’s staff was very interested in working with groups like the AACR to get medical research moving. That is good news for everyone, I think.

When we left, we were taken out a side door so that we could stand next to the White House. We were mostly all very excited by that!

The hallways go on and on … and they are beautiful. This is a very old building, but it is maintained perfectly.



The Presidential flag! Maybe I should have tried to peek into the office beside it!!


Here we are! Right beside the White House! (This picture was taken as we stepped out of the Executive Offices building)
Standing in the parking lot, we saw people coming and going to meetings at the actual White House! We had to keep moving out of the way because the visitors were dropped off at the canopied door.
I never saw soooooo many black Surburbans!! They were everywhere!!! Some other makes and models were represented, too, but they were all black!



Do you see it? The Presidential Seal? This is as close as I got to actually stepping into the White House!
The armored car.

I just cannot tell you how special this day was!! I would have never, ever, in my wildest dreams expected to speak on Capitol Hill, especially given my extreme fear of public speaking, or to go to the Executive Offices of the President.


There was still a reception and an awesome dinner. Both were just unbelievable. The reception was held in the Kennedy Caucus Room in one of the Senate buildings. The Senate buildings are much more beautiful than those for the House. There is lots of marble, gorgeous ceilings, the feeling of power. In the House buildings, I just felt like I was in old, but fairly well-maintained buildings. They were nothing special.





Many organizations took place in the Rally for Medical Research. Did it make a difference? I can only say, “I hope so.”


The AACR president, Dr. Marge Foti.




Many famous events took place in the Kennedy Caucus Room (before it was so-named!)

Let me tell you – the hors d’oeuvres served at this reception were delicious!!! I was speaking at lunchtime so failed to get any lunch. I was starving when we arrived at the reception. I was full when we left!! Coconut chicken, some kind of fresh salmon wrap, cheeses, chips and crackers, I can’t remember what all. There were a variety of wines and beers – all domestic, I heard – available as well as sparkling water and some soft drinks, I think.

I was getting tired at this point and didn’t get a bunch of pictures. Wish I had taken some of the food! So I could eat my heart out now! I wondered how people that attend many of these functions stay slim.



We came back to the hotel at about 7:45 PM. I was dragging. We were given the opportunity to change clothes (and shoes … ahhhhhh! My feet were so happy to change into tennis shoes!!!) and rest just a moment before returning to dinner at 8:15.

I planned to stay at dinner no longer than absolutely necessary. But, that was before I ended up at the first table – the one with the heads of cancer clinics all over the US. I can’t remember all of their names and, unfortunately, never caught the last name of one who was so kind to me. Her name was Karen. She heads a cancer clinic in Philadelphia. Her specialty is prostate cancer. And, she is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. She made sure that I felt like a part of the group the entire dinner. When there was an “inside joke,” she made sure I understood it. She always explained who was talking and what their specialty was. I wish I knew her full name. I would love to send her a thank you card. For her compassion. For her humanity.

It was so very interesting sitting at that table and listening to top doctors discuss cancer and research. I was suddenly not tired at all. I didn’t get back to the room until after 11 PM.

The food was absolutely divine. The company and conversation even better. I was so on top of the world after this day that I couldn’t begin to fall asleep.

Which is probably a good thing, because I had to pack everything up so I could turn back the room the next morning!