Arlene Hartley Camm, my mother, passed away on December 29, 2009, at the age of 58. We will miss her so very much. She was a mother, a student, a teacher, and a friend, a devoted wife, a doting grandmother, and a serviceable soccer coach. She loved deeply and gave freely. She was instinctively political, and could not resist the opportunity to debate- whether the counter-party wanted to or not! She was a lioness who protected her children fiercely, and taught them how to thrive. She believed in angels and dragons, and Menedelian independent assortment of genetic traits. She had a voracious appetite for books that didn’t stop once the bookshelves were full. She possessed deep faith and lived as true and honest a life as I can imagine.
Mom was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma of the lung in August of 2009 following a protracted respiratory illness. In light of the fact that she did not smoke, the doctors had been looking for a bacterial or fungal disease as the root the persistent cough that she had developed. Initial tests for cancer came back negative. Unfortunately, this appears to have been a consequence of poor sensitivity of the test. When the cancer was eventually confirmed, it had already metastasized and progressed to stage IV. Mom endured 5 rounds of chemotherapy which initially improved her symptoms, but eventually gave way to the disease. She was as brave as anyone I can imagine under the circumstances, and never once showed a blink of fear. I attribute this to her deep faith.
Lung cancer in never-smokers accounts for ~10% of all lung cancers. It occurs more often in women than men for unknown reasons. My second-hand experience with this disease exposed me the the shockingly crude therapies and diagnostics currently available. In a sense, this means there is room for vast improvement and hope for people in the future.
Mom would rather not be remembered for the disease that ultimately claimed her, but instead for the values that she held dear: integrity, diligence, community engagement, education, and social responsibility. Mom had a true love for life. She was a real treasure to me.
More information about Arlene Hartley Camm’s life and accomplishments can be found at http://sites.google.com/site/arlenehartleycamm.