Beating Back Cancer

Karmanos Cancer Institute At McLaren Oakland

“To hear that was a godsend.”

It was a familiar face that delivered the news to Lori.

It was Nov. 29, and Lori was sitting in the McLaren Oakland emergency department in Pontiac.

For the past 10 days, she had been feeling an odd sensation that resulted in her dry-heaving multiple times every day. She was afflicted with something, and when it didn’t get any better, she decided it was time to get it checked out.

A retired emergency department nurse, Lori admits to having a “burden of knowledge,” and she knew that this trip to the ER would reveal something serious.

“You go to your home, where you know the doctors,” she said. For 28 years she was a nurse in that very ER.

After a battery of tests, the doctor returned to her bed, results in hands.

The doctor was a friend, someone she had mentored at one time. The doctor, now a third-year emergency medicine resident, had worked with Lori during her final years as a charge nurse.

“I was scared,” Lori said. “I saw him there, and he broke down. He was crying.”

It was cancer.

Moving quickly

A mass had been growing on Lori’s lung. Growing larger, it began to push on her esophagus. That’s what was causing her to dry heave.

"I had never heard a
doctor say that before.
Two times — he said
‘miracle’ and ‘miraculous.’”

“I was admitted right away,” she said. Led from the emergency department to a room in the hospital’s Karmanos Cancer Institute inpatient oncology unit, Lori got a PET scan to determine the extent of her cancer.

The scan showed that the cancer had already metastasized to her brain.

She had already been introduced to her doctors: oncologist Dr. Mohammed Masri and radiation oncologist Dr. Stephen Franklin.

With the cancer having already spread, “Let’s get started now” was their mindset for Lori.

Within four days of her arrival in the emergency department, she had her first radiation therapy session. Chemotherapy would follow soon in the next couple weeks.

“These guys were fantastic,” she said.

Dr. Masri next moved Lori’s treatment into immunotherapies, a next-generation approach to fighting cancer.

Lori was months into her treatment when she had her next PET scan — a scan to determine the treatment’s progress and gauge how the cancer was responding to that treatment.

She still had the burden of knowledge, though.

“I figured the diagnosis meant I had three months if I didn’t do anything,” she said. “I really thought this was going to be bad news. To hear that was a godsend.”


“I had never heard a doctor say that before,” Lori said. “Two times — he said ‘miracle’ and ‘miraculous.’”

Her PET scan was clean. The cancer that had started in her lungs and spread to her brain was “in 100 percent remission.”

“They’re phenomenal,” she said.

Lori will continue to periodically meet with Dr. Masri and to get PET scans, but as it stands, she has a clean bill of health.

It was especially emotional for her. The year before, in March 2020, her husband passed away. They have sons, who she said were phenomenal — one son is with the Oxford Fire Department, and organized an 80-car drive-by, and the other came in often from out of state — “but it was hard going through this illness without him.” She also found comfort in the kindness and thoughtful gestures of the staff at the Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Clarkston.

“They bend over backwards for everything,” Lori said. She recalls, already deep into her treatments, that she wasn’t feeling well. Without an appointment, she showed up at the office. She was hooked up to an IV after they found her to be dehydrated.

“You go in there scared, but it’s an ‘up’ place to be,” she said, “and the staff makes it that way.”