Michael Rodio | September 18, 2014 | Harper Cancer Research Institute
It’s not unusual to hear cancer researchers talk about how cancer has impacted their lives. For many, the disease looms like a specter, both inspiring their work and reminding them of the countless lives it affects.
For Dr. Tom Merluzzi, the director of Notre Dame’s Laboratory for Psycho-oncology Research and a researcher at the Harper Cancer Research Institute, cancer was not so much a specter as a deeply personal trial. In 1980, his first wife, then only 34 years old, developed a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Three years later, doctors discovered that Merluzzi’s mother had leukemia. But his devastation at the two diagnoses quickly yielded to something like admiration, as he watched his wife and mother summon quiet hope and courage during years of treatments.
So Merluzzi, who had spent the first part of his now four-decade-long career at Notre Dame studying social anxiety, decided to understand how cancer patients psychologically cope with the challenges of cancer and cancer treatments.