Providing hope to Cholangiocarcinoma patients by raising critically needed research money for this aggressive and deadly disease with no cure, and supporting them as they navigate their journey through mentoring, love and prayer.
How does a mother drop her first-born son off at college on a Thursday and endure an 11-hour life-saving liver resection surgery the following Tuesday? How do you tell him that you were told you only had six months to live just one week ago? How do you look into the eyes of this 18-year old and his little brother and your soulmate since you were 16, and tell them everything is going to be OK? How does the same mother survive this surgery, needing 14 units of blood?
Faith. Family. Friends.
When Lisa Craine, at 46, was diagonosed in August 2010 with cholangiocarcinoma, a rare form of cancer, she didn’t just suddenly discover her faith, form a family or find friends. Growing up in a warm and generous Italian family, being married for 29 years to her high school sweetheart and having two loving sons, she knows her blessings in life.
But watching her stoic German son, Jake ’10 sobbing as they drove away and listening to her emotional Italian son Noah ’16 cry from the back of the family van, she momentarily asked God, “Why me?”
“When I say I got cancer, I truly mean our family got cancer,” Lisa said. “It doesn’t just affect the person with cancer. I tell people that sometimes it is easier to be the patient than the people who love you and care for you. They feel helpless.”
The Craine’s quickly learned to accept help from others, much of that help coming from Hoban friends.
After the initial shock of the diagnosis. Lisa’s innate genuine, full-of-life personality prompted her and her husband David to make a positive out of cancer. They came up with three goals to make the journey a rewarding experience.
“First, we wanted our faith to be strengthened. We wanted to inspire other people’s faith by our example of being in prayer and living like Christ,” Lisa said.
“We also wanted to raise research money for cholangiocarcinoma. While there are a lot of organizations raising money for cancer patients, very few raise 100 percent for research and even fewer for rare forms of cancer,” Lisa said. “Raising research money is difficult because it’s not tangible. So David and I started a 501C3 through the Akron Community Foundation.
“Our last goal was that we both wanted to mentor patients and their caregivers. We felt so isolated and alone when I was diagnosed because it’s just such a rare cancer,” Lisa said.
Currently Lisa mentors about 30 people from all over the world, while her husband shares the struggles of the caregiver because often they forget about themselves.
Lisa has endured 31 hours of surgery, three rounds of radiation, 52 chemo treatments, and five recurrences with eight tumors. And yet she sees the blessings in all of this when she mentors people and she knows she probably has had one of the treatments or recurrence that the patient is experiencing.
Many of her contacts come from the Cleveland Clinic—where she “received first-class medical care,”— a network of doctors and patients she has met at different cancer functions. They are all ages, all walks of life. Young moms and older people.
“Once I get someone, I never let them out of my hug” Lisa said. “I call it my virtual hug. I have a big calendar at home. If I know someone is having a scan or treatment, I call the day before. If they are prayerful, we pray together and then talk. Then I call later to see how they are doing. I turn them into friendships.”
Lisa keeps files on each person so that she can make them feel like family. Taking calls at all hours, she hopes to help cholangiocarcinoma patients navigate their journey through mentoring, love and prayer.
Lisa has been invited to tell her story at medical conventions and fundraisers around the country. Before every speech she prays that she touches the doctor to be more compassionate in sharing a diagnosis, a researcher to connect on the human level, and a philanthropist to see the value in research.
Craine’s Crew, the nonprofit Lisa and David started, has raised over $100,000 for research since 2012.
“Every day I pray to God that he continues to let me do his work here on earth and always remember to give him the glory,” Lisa said. “My purpose is to serve others and give them hope. I tell my story. Maybe that gives other patients some hope.”
It is this hope Lisa Craine gives to others, and the capacity to love them unconditionally is why she has been chosen to receive the 2017 Hoban Knight Award.
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