Jamie Calver was floating on cloud nine. The 55-year-old husband, father
and vice president of a haircare company was heading to the airport with
his wife of four years for a belated honeymoon trip to Italy when suddenly,
he felt excruciating pain down the left side of his body. The pain eventually
subsided but lingered as the couple continued through their ten-day vacation.
Upon his return, Jamie met with his St. Jude primary care physician who
performed tests and an MRI before scheduling him for additional consultation
with a gastroenterologist. However, before reaching that appointment,
Jamie found himself again experiencing extreme body pains while driving
home from work. He was immediately scheduled for a CT scan and follow-up
meeting with oncologist Giribala Patel, MD to review the results.
The CT scan revealed that Jamie had two large tumors on his adrenal glands,
one of which was pressing on his aorta. They discussed surgery to remove
the tumors, and Jamie went on with his everyday life, hoping that the
procedure would resolve his health issues.
A week later, while attending Kobe Bryant’s last game at Staples
Center with his son, Jamie received a call that changed his life.
“Dr. Patel revealed that I had stage IV lung cancer and that I needed
to come in to see her as soon as possible,” recalls Jamie. “I
was in shock. I immediately assumed I was terminal. That was the longest
night of my life for me and my family.” For anyone, a diagnosis
of cancer is terrifying. But for Jamie, his fears were further escalated
by the fact that both his parents had died from lung cancer. Jamie himself
had been smoking since he was ten years old, having grown up around it
in American Samoa. However, he decided to quit in 2008 and had not touched
a cigarette since.
“I knew because of my family’s history that I was playing Russian
roulette with my health. Since I’d quit smoking, I felt healthy,
I was athletic and life was pretty good,” Jamie said. “Then
I got this diagnosis, and my world was turned upside down.”
On Jamie’s CT scan, Dr. Patel had caught spots, or nodules, indicating
cancer on his lung, lymph node and adrenal glands. Some were as large
as 70 and 78 millimeters. In going over treatment options, Dr. Patel suggested
a clinical trial that St. Jude was conducting in partnership with UCLA.
The trial was showing promising results for different types of cancers,
and it was closing in two weeks.
“Between doing regular chemo and doing the clinical trial, we chose
the clinical trial. I figured I had nothing to lose at this point, so
we went forward,” Jamie said. Jamie underwent his first round of
infusion with the clinical trial therapy. The weeks leading up to his
results were filled with fear and anxiety. A month and a half later, Jamie
received a call — but this call was life changing for another reason.
“My UCLA contact from the clinical trial told me that the largest
tumor on my adrenal gland had shrunk from 78 to 35 millimeters and the
other had shrunk from 70 to 29 millimeters. The one on my lung shrunk
from 21 to 7 millimeters and the one on my lymph node shrunk from 18 to
9 millimeters. We were all thrilled,” Jamie said.
Jamie has continued receiving infusions every four weeks with the tumors
shrinking after each treatment. After his 13th treatment, the tumors on
his adrenal glands had shrunk to under 10 millimeters. The tumors on his
lung and lymph node were undetectable. “I feel so blessed to have
the opportunity to be on this clinical trial. Dr. Patel told me that had
I gone on chemo instead, it was likely that I would have only lived another
six to nine months,” Jamie said. “Now, having just undergone
my 15th treatment, I feel like I’m living 80% of perfect. I feel
like I could continue that way for the rest of my life.”
St. Jude’s Crosson Cancer Institute, through partnerships with some
of the nation’s top research consortiums, is a leading site for
clinical trials. Clinical trials currently underway at St. Jude include
promising treatments for nearly every type of cancer. By providing the
community access to new therapies, years before they become publically
available, St. Jude is helping increase survivability from even the most
advanced and aggressive cancers, like Jamie’s.
Compared to where he was last spring, Jamie says his health has improved
“to the point where people forget that I have cancer.” While
the journey has not always been easy, his strong support network keeps
“I sometimes throw myself a pity party, crying and thinking ‘this
is my life now.’ Luckily, I have people to get me get through it,
like my wife, my family and my friends,” Jamie said. “I can’t
thank the people enough at St. Jude. Dr. Patel who never lets me join
my own pity party. Palliative Care nurse Lisa Hanna who keeps me on track
with medications and getting healthier. Everyone from the receptionist
to the people who book my appointments — they all have a way of
making you feel better, and not making you feel bad because you feel bad
To express his gratitude and give back to the program that saved his life,
Jamie is raising support for and participating as a model in St. Jude’s
A Walk Among the Stars Fashion Show and Luncheon in October. This uplifting
annual event, featuring cancer patients and survivors as models, raises
funds for patient care and clinical advancements at the Crosson Cancer
Institute. This year’s event supports bringing the latest technology
in breast cancer detection — 3D mammography — to the institute’s
Kathryn T. McCarty Breast Center.
“St. Jude saved my life and they’re saving people’s lives
all the time. I want to help them in any way I can, whether it’s
raising awareness or connecting them to philanthropic individuals who
may be interested in supporting cancer care,” Jamie said.
“I am living proof that these programs work and they need to be supported,”
he said. “I never thought this disease would go away. I thought
I was terminal, and I was just living day-to-day. Now, I’m looking
forward to planning for the future. I’m so blessed to have the quality
of life I have now, and I am forever grateful.”