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“He Was in Good Hands There”

​​​​​​​​​When a family is grateful for the care a loved one received, there are no geographical limits.

An amazing example of this is the Elizabeth A. Crary Fund in memory of Thomas H. Crary, held at the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation. This endowment fund will provide annual support for lung cancer research as well as care for lung cancer patients at Marshfield Clinic. It was established by Elizabeth Crary upon her death, in honor of her brother, Thomas.

Thomas Crary was the son of a professor at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. According to Thomas’ sister, Rachel Crary, Thomas lived in the Grand Marsh area south of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. In 2000, he became ill and was eventually referred to Marshfield Clinic, where he was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma of the lung, the most common type of lung cancer. He saw William Hocking, M.D., an oncologist/hematologist who Rachel remembered as kind and personable.

“He took all the time needed to answer questions and talk with Tom, and those of us who were also there,” she said. “He was very patient in explaining everything and had a manner when he was talking to you that made you feel you were the only person who mattered.”

Twelve years after seeing Thomas, Dr. Hocking remembers him well.

“He was a soft-spoken man who was previously healthy until he developed lung cancer, which had metastasized widely by the time of his diagnosis,” Dr. Hocking said. “This is a major problem with lung cancer; it is often diagnosed at a late stage when a cure is not possible.”

Tom’s family took turns visiting him, including sister Elizabeth (Beth), who lived in Massachusetts. Tom died of his cancer just six months after his first visit to the Clinic. Ironically, an older sister, Martha, died of the very same cancer four years later, in Philadelphia.

“Beth would have wanted to do something in their memory,” Rachel said. “I think she chose Marshfield Clinic because she had spent time there and was impressed with it. We all thought he was in good hands there.” Elizabeth set up the endowment in Ann Arbor because that is where all the siblings grew up. Even though she lived in Massachusetts, she continued to conduct business transactions in her hometown, Ann Arbor.

Elizabeth Crary, an animal lover, posed with her brother Thomas’ dog, Harriet. Thomas took the dog in after it showed up in his Grand Marsh area yard.

Elizabeth died in 2010, also of cancer. Marshfield Clinic was not aware that the endowment fund had been established until contacted by the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation in late 2010. Besides Marshfield Clinic, Elizabeth established funds for four other organizations, including a church, two humane societies and a hospital.

With the first annual endowment distribution to arrive in early spring this year, Marshfield Clinic staff has been planning how to best use the funds annually for the benefit of lung cancer patients and their families.

One-half of the distribution will be applied to lung cancer research through the Marshfield Clinic Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), where about 14 percent of the patients participating in clinical cancer trials are lung cancer patients.

“While we have made some recent progress in lung cancer, research in this area has lagged behind some other cancers, and much more needs to be done to reduce the burden of this disease,” Dr. Hocking said. “This is an important area of investigation at Marshfield Clinic.”

The Clinic is one of the centers involved in the National Lung Screening Trial that has demonstrated that lung cancer mortality can be reduced by screening high risk populations with low-dose CT scans.

“The Crary Fund will help us to continue working in this area, and will have a major impact on patients in our region,” Dr. Hocking said. “These funds will aid us in providing the best possible care for patients with lung cancer as well as supporting further research directed at reducing the suffering caused by this disease.”

The other half of the endowment distribution, for lung cancer patient care, will be used initially for smoking prevention and cessation programs, lung cancer survivorship care through the Clinic’s WINGS program, and a possible annual lung cancer educational symposium for health care workers, lung cancer patients and their caregivers.