As a child in the small town of Munroe Falls, Ohio, Lisa Craine never heard the word “philanthropist.”
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Raising Funds – and Hope
“I didn't grow up with a lot of money,” she says. “But even though we had very little, my family took care of others who didn’t have as much. My father did repairs around the house for my widowed aunt, and was always cooking and sharing food with those less fortunate. And my mother was so compassionate. They taught me about philanthropy. I just didn't know the word.”
Today, Lisa and her husband, David, are earning a reputation as generous, thoughtful philanthropists since establishing Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew fund through the Akron Community Foundation — after Lisa’s diagnosis in 2010. Donations to the fund support cholangiocarcinoma research at Cleveland Clinic’s Taussig Cancer Institute.
Fighting for Her Life
What Lisa and her doctor originally thought was gallbladder trouble instead was much more serious. Cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, is a malignant growth originating in one of the ducts that carries bile from the liver to the small intestine. It’s a rare but aggressive cancer.
Lisa’s doctor referred her to Cleveland Clinic, where John Fung, MD, PhD, Chair of the Digestive Disease Institute, removed the tumor and 75 percent of her liver. She then went through six months of chemotherapy. But her cancer recurred four times.
“I’ve had four surgeries,” she says, tracing a line from her sternum to her waist and halfway up her right side. “Two liver resections, four different chemotherapy regimens and three stereotactic radiation treatments.”
She credits her multidisciplinary team of Dr. Fung, Bassam Estfan, MD, and Kevin Stephans, MD, for never allowing her to give up hope. “Cleveland Clinic is like a second family to me – they make me feel like I’m their only patient,” she says.
Amazingly, Lisa’s been cancer-free for the past 18 months. “I live from 12 weeks to the next 12,” she says, referring to the scheduled blood tests and scans that detect abnormalities.
Lisa, David and their two sons support cancer research at Cleveland Clinic in other ways, too. David rode in VeloSano, Cleveland Clinic’s Bike to Cure event, while Lisa cheered everyone on at the finish line. The family attended the Scott Hamilton and Friends Ice Show and Gala on Nov. 3, where they each had a chance to publicly thank Lisa’s doctors. And Lisa mentors other cancer patients through the 4th Angel Mentoring Program. But their main focus is Craine’s Cholangiocarcinoma Crew.
Lisa acknowledges that raising money for research is hard because it’s not tangible. “There’s that unknown with what really happens to that money. Does it make a difference? Yes, it does.”
She says she wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her abiding faith in God – and cancer research. “Just because it’s a rare cancer doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of research. Everyone deserves to live. Everyone deserves to have hope.”
Researchers at the Taussig Cancer Institute are working hard to offer some. Current cholangiocarcinoma research shows promise using targeted therapies based on the genomic profile of the tumor.
“One hundred percent of donations go to this research,” Lisa says, noting that she and David pay for the fund’s administrative costs. Since 2012, nearly $60,000 has been raised.
“The last four years have brought so many new clinical trials, targeted therapies and new types of radiation treatments,” Lisa says. “I’m more hopeful than ever that we’ll find early detection tools, better treatment options and a cure.”