Laci McNair has heard all of the warnings about what causes throat cancer, but she wanted to learn more about the disease that touched her family in a most personal way.
"I was thinking about it for a while and I thought about my grandpa and wanted to see what caused it and what could be done to prevent it," said Laci, a senior at Harlem High School who chose the topic as the focus of her senior project. "My grandfather was a smoker and hasn't smoked since he was diagnosed. He was in the hospital a lot and it made me really nervous. I'm really glad he pulled through."
Donald Dickens, Laci's grandfather, was diagnosed with throat cancer about five years ago. Today, he has a tube inserted into his trachea to help keep his airway clear. It is estimated that 10,000 new cases of throat cancer occur each year in the United States.
"What I learned through my research was basically typical stuff, like don't smoke and don't drink," said Laci, the 17-year-old daughter of Tony and Donna McNair, of Harlem. "There are so many other factors, too, like the environment."
To learn more about the disease, Laci called on Tracey Slagle, a nurse at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital who works with cancer patients and works at American Cancer Society-sponsored events.
"I believe Laci was sincerely interested in this disease because her grandfather is a cancer survivor," said Slagle, the practice site coordinator of the MCG Comprehensive Cancer Center who has worked with cancer patients for 12 years. "She has had a close experience with watching a family member fight and live with the disease. Laci interviewed me and asked several questions related to cancer in general and specifically to throat cancer. The questions included my experience with the disease and the care of the patients."
The product component of Laci's senior project included hosting a talent show-style concert at her school to raise funds for the American Cancer Society. The event, held last month, raised $400.
Laci said she was more than happy with the money raised and even more so that her grandfather attended the event.
"I was just so happy to see him there," she said, adding that her grandfather doesn't like to go out because of the trachea tube he has. "It kind of let him know it's OK; it happens to other people. I think he was just shocked at how it all came together."
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