When Lanier Swann Hodgson imagined dancing at her wedding, she never thought it would be as a kidney cancer survivor. Yet she will forever cherish the meaningful dance with her father—albeit down a kidney—and is passionate about making sure others have the same opportunity.
“It is my greatest prayer that together we can continue to ensure more and more patients can dance,” said Lanier. “So that one day we can celebrate that this disease has been robbed of its power to steal husbands from their wives, mothers from their children and dads from dancing with their daughters.”
Lanier first learned she had cancer two years ago when a fierce pain in her abdomen prompted an emergency hospital visit. Although she was living in D.C. at the time, Lanier knew immediately where she wanted to be treated. “I need to go where my grandfather had fought the beast: UNC.”
Before heading to UNC Lineberger for a laparoscopic procedure to remove her kidney, which had doubled in size due to her tumor, Lanier had an important stop to make. “I did what any good Tar Heel would do. I got in my car and drove to the ACC Tournament.”
With her trademark determination, Lanier quickly recovered from a successful surgery but knows her cancer journey has only just begun. “It is never really over. I am scanned constantly and I never got my energy back,” explained Lanier. “But, most importantly, when you learn of someone else who has heard the same news as you, your world stops.”
Lanier was quick to sign over her tumor, which she named Travom after two ex-boyfriends, to UNC Lineberger for research. Furthermore, she and a couple currently battling cancer are starting a foundation.
“We want to help fund kidney cancer research like the research that’s happening at Carolina, on my tumor that I happily left behind in a lab.”
In support of Lanier’s triumph over cancer and involvement with the kidney cancer community, her uncle and aunt, Eddie and Jo Smith, established the Lanier Swann Hodgson Kidney Cancer Research Fund at UNC Lineberger. The seed grant is a fitting tribute to Lanier, whose top priority is to save others.
“Kidney cancer is underfunded and under-researched. While cancer deaths are on the decline, kidney cancer deaths are on the rise,” said Lanier. “We can stop this trajectory, but it is going to take some work.”