Video: Making a Difference

By Ann Curry
NBC News
updated 8/11/2006 7:27:40 PM ET 2006-08-11T23:27:40

There's nothing more important to Kathy Giusti than her family. She knows time is precious. Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma.

"The clock is ticking," she says, "but maybe I'll get more and more time." 

Time is something Kathy has not wasted. She's set out to find a cure. Not just by raising money — more than $60 million — but Kathy, a former pharmaceutical executive, is helping to solve one of the biggest obstacles in medical research: The lack of coordination between scientists and drug makers, which often delays the approval of new drugs.

"It wasn't that they didn't want to collaborate," says Kathy, "it was just that between doing research and seeing patients, they didn't have time to collaborate."

So through the myeloma organizations she founded with her twin sister Karen, she created a model, convincing 11 renown cancer hospitals to work together to get new drugs on the market quickly.

"When we see things that are taking a long time, we try to break things down and make it happen faster," says Kathy.

The result? Three new myeloma drugs now on the market in just the last five years.

Ben Underhill was diagnosed in 2003.

"She is larger than life in a lot of ways," he says about Kathy. "She is saving my life and she is going to save other lives."

Kathy continues to do so despite a relapse and a grueling bone marrow transplant earlier this year.

Does it make her angry that this cure is unlikely to happen in her lifetime?

"It doesn't make me angry," she says. "It makes me scared. I'm scared of what I will miss, and not being there for the most important points in my children's lives. I would love Nicole and David to say that I was a great Mom, I was always there when they needed me, and that I taught them the most important lessons of life: People are good, people are kind, and they will always give back."

That's something Kathy Giusti exemplifies for her family and cancer patients around the world.

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