Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Connie Madison

On Dec. 6, 2007, Connie Madison, an active and healthy 54-year-old and mother of two, was shocked to learn that she had stage III pancreatic cancer.

When Madison and her family were told that her cancer was “inoperable and incurable,” they made the decision to seek a second opinion and began exploring treatment options together. Madison’s daughter-in-law, Heather, quickly discovered that VCU Massey Cancer Center is one of only a handful of cancer centers in the nation that offers a specialized clinical trial for pancreatic cancer.

They scheduled an appointment at Massey with James Shaw, M.D., who explained to Madison and her family that participating in a clinical trial is a safe and special opportunity. Clinical trials research finds better ways to diagnose, prevent or treat diseases using new drugs or new devices. People who enroll are followed intensively. Once Madison learned that the first access to promising new therapies is only available through participation in a clinical trial, they knew that this was the path to take.

Madison knew what to expect from the clinical trial. “Dr. Shaw is great! He explained the available options thoroughly,” she said when she started her treatments. "Through this entire prcoess, I have felt like a person being treated, not just a number or another patient."

Madison and her family were so impressed with her experience at Massey that they wanted to give back. In 2008, Madison’s son Mark and his wife Heather recruited 37 people to run in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k and began raising money in honor of Madison through the Massey Fundraising Challenge. “I wanted to do something that would honor my mom and support this nationally recognized cancer center located right in our backyard.”

Madison was touched that her friends and family were rallying around her and told the story to her clinical research coordinator at Massey, Diane Holdford, R.N. That day, Holdford made a promise to Madison that they would walk the 2009 10k together. “Connie is an inspiration. She is devoted to living her life and not letting cancer get her down. She is determined to beat the odds.”

And Madison is beating the odds. On March 28, she reached her goal and Holdford fulfilled her promise. Together, they walked all six miles of the race side-by-side. When asked how she was feeling that day, Madison said it all when she started talking about next year. “I plan on participating again in 2010!”