Being involved in the medical field, I often treat or see individuals with some aspect of lung disease that has affected their ability to participate in activities of daily living. I have always been an advocate for these individuals, however I never thought to help on a greater scale until lung disease began to affect my family. My grandmother, Claudette Roller, was diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer in August of 2016.
For the next month, she sought out multiple medical opinions from local oncologists and medical professionals at leading cancer research institutions. They all suggested the same treatment approach... chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery was out of the equation once they found that the cancer was in multiple lymph nodes along her sternum.
And so it began... radiation 5x/week for six weeks and chemotherapy 1x/week for 12 weeks. Grandma was a trooper throughout the duration of her treatment, despite the pain from the Neulasta shots and onset of anemia.
Three weeks after her final chemotherapy treatment, she went in for a follow-up PET scan. We finally got some good news! The cancer that was in her lymph nodes was no longer showing metabolic activity and the tumor, which was intially 8cm, had decreased in size. With this news, she made an appointment with the surgeon in the hopes that she could now get the tumor removed.
Surgery scheduled! Family all gathered in the hospital prepared to wait together until the three hour procedure had concluded. Only we received news that after an hour and a half, she was in the recovery room. Good or bad? The surgeon spoke with my mom to let her know that when he scoped her left lung, the tumor was found to be fused with the upper lobe and there were METs on her chest wall and diaphragm. He was unable to perform the surgery, because taking out the lung would not have guarenteed that she would be cancer free. Why go through an extensive surgery if it wasn't going to take care of the cancer? Back to square one, only this time, she was now classified as stage 4.
She found herself back at the oncologist to discuss her treatment options. Fast forward a couple more weeks and she was now on track to begin an oral chemotherapy routine. One pill, once a day.
Seemed simple, and everything was going well until she developed pneumonia in June 2017. They started her on a steroid and antibiotic to help fight the infection. About two weeks later, during a typical morning phone call with my grandma, she told me that she "just didn't feel right". She was having difficulty using her phone and moving her extremities. Shortly after my phone call with her, she was rushed to the ER.
While in the the ER she experienced a grand mal seizure and ended up in the ICU. Further testing revealed that her INR was 6x the normal value. The concern now was that there was a bleed somewhere. The CT results came back and indicated she had two subdural hematomas and cerebral hemorrhaging. The MD at the time said that she would likely not make it out of the ICU. They pushed vitamin K that afternoon to get the INR number down. The vitamin K stopped the bleeding in her brain, but caused her to have a stroke in her temporal lobe (affecting her speech center). She could no longer communicate her needs and had lost function of her right side.
My mother and I spent the next few days talking to hospice and palliative care as the MD had suggested that she would not recover from this. Additionally, while in the hospital, they did not treat her cancer (the oral pill was not given) because they wanted her to follow-up with her oncologist before she resumed taking the pill again. Once they began treating her for a severe UTI and got her on anti-seizure medication, her speech began to come back and she was finally able to get out of bed. They wanted her to go to a short term rehab facility, but she declined. So, she would be leaving the hospital with home health physical therapy, speech, occupational therapy and nursing.
Once she was home, things started looking up. She was showing improvement in strength and about 80% of her speech had returned. My grandmother went from needing assistance of two people to perform functional tasks, to spending the weekend at her own house, taking care of herself. She made an unbelievable recovery.
After the hospitalization, she was scheduled for a follow-up CT scan to determine the status of her cancer. The MD was happy to report that the disease had shown no signs of advancing. It was determined then that she would begin a maintenance chemotherapy routine. The oncologist has informed her that she would likely always be short of breath, but it is a good sign that the cancer has not progressed given the fact that they did not provide treatment for a few weeks.
Three months after starting maintenance chemotherapy, my aunt went to the house to visit grandma and found her sitting in the chair, unable to speak clearly or move her right side. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Imaging indicated that the cancer in her lung was advancing, and she now had multiple lesions on her brain. They had also found evidence of a new stroke, which explained the inability to use her right side.. again.
Fast forward to today, and she is on hospice care at home. The oncologist has given her 3 months or less to live. It is a sad reality that we must face as a family. Her breathing is labored and she is often confused... but she is still putting up one hell of a fight.
This is one person's story. Over 400,000 people are affected by lung disease each year. I can't say that I have had first hand experience of what it is like to have lung disease. However, watching someone I love very much struggle with anxiety and shortness of breath has not been easy.
Please help me in my efforts to raise money that will benefit not only lung cancer research, but research to find cures/more effective treatment methods for multiple lung diseases/infections. Help improve the lives of many!
Let’s make sure everyone can benefit from healthy lungs.
Chances are you know someone who has faced the challenges of asthma, COPD, lung cancer or air pollution. By making a donation on my behalf, you will be helping the American Lung Association provide community based education programs, fight for cleaner air standards and fund life-saving research. With your help, we will fight against lung disease and for lung health. We will be making a positive difference for all of the parents who have a child with asthma, the people who struggle daily with COPD and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and friends who get diagnosed with lung cancer.
Every donation I receive helps make a bigger impact. Please help support my efforts to save lives, donate now.
Together we can fight lung disease successfully!