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Gratitude That Lasts For Years

March 21, 2018
Francis Ward
Francis and John Ward
March 30 is a day to celebrate those physicians who take time away from their own families to take care of ours. Every medical experience in our lives is touched by doctors, and they care deeply about their patients.

We are lucky at GBMC to have fantastic physicians who are not only intelligent and skilled, but also compassionate. What they do matters to patients, which is why on Doctor's Day in 2017, 127 donors gave more than $15,000 in honor of more than 100 different physicians. They gave because doctors saved their life or their family member's life or because they are kind and listen to their needs. They gave because they want to say thank you.

Francis Ward is just one example of a patient who feels a special connection to now-retired Medical Director of the GBMC Sandra and Malcom Berman Cancer Institute, Dr. Gary Cohen.

After years of smoking, Francis had been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. "Dr. Cohen always made me feel better with his calm and reassuring demeanor, even if the news he was sharing was not good," said Francis.

Francis didn't respond well to initial chemotherapy treatments. Her husband, John, was despondent. "Physically, Freddie was very dark. She was thin, and she was dying." After many years together, the Wards are still deeply in love. So, it is not hard to imagine the difficult blow Francis' cancer had dealt.

After John returned from distinguished service in the South Pacific during World War II, he found a good job working for Baltimore City’s main post office. It was there, in 1947, his future wife would ask if he could spare a cigarette. He obliged, and the next day she asked for another.

The future couple would see each other frequently that summer, as Francis, on summer break from Morgan State University, secured a summer job at the post office. One day, Francis asked John if he would consider attending a dance with Francis’ friend. John replied, "How about I go with you, and my brother can go with your friend?" She agreed.

After they married, the couple had two daughters and successful careers: she as a librarian, and he as a teacher, school principal and eventually the Associate Superintendent of Baltimore County Schools.

Their long life together had prepared them for many challenges, but nothing prepared them for a battle with cancer.

Dr. Cohen suggested Francis enter into the clinical trial of a new drug which saved Francis’ life. "Instantly, I could see her begin to get better," John said. "It was truly amazing!"

"Francis had a miraculous response and is still alive, well and 'cured,' which is virtually unheard of for metastatic lung cancer," Dr. Cohen said.

"When Dr. Cohen saw me coming, he would say, 'Here comes my miracle lady!' Dr. Cohen was my angel," Francis said.

Now cancer-free, Francis is a survivor. Tough as nails, physically, she is kind to a fault. The grandmother of three, John says Francis never waivers. "During all the years I have known her and all that she has been through, Freddie has never complained … not once."

To learn more about supporting GBMC's oncology program or how to support a physician that changed your life, contact John C. Jeppi in the GBMC Philanthropy Department at 443-849-3303 or
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