From Helpless to Helping, Tragedy to Triumph

A family turns their grief to good and the illness of a mother into a worldwide cause.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Supporters, The Moog Family
The Moog family

It was right before Christmas — December 18, 2012, a day Conny Moog’s family will never forget. It was the day Conny received a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer.

Obviously, she and her family — her husband, Maarten, her then-19-year-old son, Max, and 17‒year‒old daughter, Morgan — were devastated by the news. They knew Conny needed the most expert care available and together determined to seek treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering, where they met medical oncologist Lee Krug.

Small cell lung cancer is believed to originate when specialized cells called neuroendocrine cells in areas surrounding the bronchi (the air tubes leading from the trachea to the lungs) become abnormal and start to grow uncontrollably. Small cell lung cancer is less common than non‒small cell lung cancer and accounts for about 13 percent of all lung cancer cases, or approximately 30,000 cases per year in the United States.

For many patients, the best treatment strategy for this type of cancer is to enroll in a clinical trial that tests new drugs; Memorial Sloan Kettering is currently conducting trials for several new drugs to treat small cell lung cancer. Dr. Krug enrolled Conny in two trials.

Ending One Chapter, Beginning Another

Sadly, less than a year later, on November 8, 2013, Conny passed away from her disease. Yet even in the midst of their grief, her family was not about to let this be the end of her story.

Indeed, even as her mother was undergoing treatment, Morgan had already decided to begin a project to help support research into small cell lung cancer. She knew that sitting idle or giving in to feelings of helplessness would not do her any good — nor would it help her mother, her family, and others going through similar experiences.

One of Morgan’s first acts was to order rubber bracelets that read “Lung Cancer Awareness” that she could sell to raise money. After speaking about small cell lung cancer before her entire high school — The Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, New Jersey — that first order sold out in a matter of hours. More bracelets were ordered. Soon, Morgan’s classmates joined in the fund‒raising in even bigger ways. Among their efforts were soccer matches and football games whose proceeds were donated to fund research into the disease for which Conny was then being treated.

A Local Cause Goes Global

When Conny passed away, her family asked that donations be sent in her memory — a request that went global via social media (the Moogs are originally from Germany).

To date, the family has raised more than $200,000 to support Dr. Krug and his Memorial Sloan Kettering research team.

“Unlike non-small cell lung cancer, there have been very few therapeutic advances for small cell lung cancer in the past 30 years,” says Dr. Krug. “However, the opportunities have never been as great as they are now, and research from our group is driving significant understandings of the disease. Continued progress is profoundly dependent on funding, and philanthropy is a vital part of that picture. I am extremely grateful for the generosity of the Moog family and all those to whom they have reached out in support of our work.”

“I recommend to other families who find themselves in situations like ours that they consider raising money to fund research,” adds Maarten Moog. “Not only does it help in the grieving process, but it allows you to actually make a tangible contribution to bring physicians and scientists closer to cures.”