In March 2011, after worsening back pain, I visited my physiatrist who ordered an MRI. When I saw her for the results, she was speechless; my upper body was "riddled with lesions". I was 54 years old and never smoked; I insisted there was some kind of mix-up with my scans.
A few days later, after various scans and tests, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. As a non-smoker, and being very athletic (I ran 3 miles the evening before my diagnosis without discomfort or shortness of breath), my doctors predicted I would have the EGFR mutation, and the biopsy results proved they were right. After 9 months of almost complete remission on the targeted therapy, Tarceva, I developed resistance, and over the next four years participated in several clinical trials, including immunotherapy, as well as first line chemo, all with varying results. I have also been on blood thinners since the diagnosis because of a DVT that was found at the time of diagnosis.
My life has been a challenging roller coaster ride, living with uncertainty, and trying to function with ever-changing side effects. The good days are priceless, and I make a constant effort to keep up my athletic routine to sustain my sanity. This spring will be my five year anniversary, and I am grateful for the support of my family, my husband and three children, my friends, and my medical team, as well as those who are raising awareness of lung cancer in women.
I am so excited to have joined LUNG FORCE and I hope you will too! Together we will make lung cancer a public health priority, educate women on their risks, increase research funding and improve treatment options for those living with lung cancer.
I'm a 23-year-old girl who is beating stage IV lung cancer.
Just 2 weeks after graduating from UC Berkeley, I was walking down a street in San Francisco when I received an unexpected phone call.
"Corey, you have adenocarcinoma. You need to see the doctor tomorrow."
I Googled the foreign word - "The most common form of lung cancer."
I've never smoked.
Accepting the diagnosis was the most difficult part. Here I was in marathoner's shape, having run a trail half marathon just two weeks before. I had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on my recent study-abroad trip. Yet, the statistics were stark; a 16 percent survival rate. At the time, I thought chemotherapy was my only option and that a clear PET/CT scan would be nearly impossible to achieve. Then I read about genomic testing and precision medicine, and I realized that this is my chance. Comprehensive genomic profiling and precision medicine together create a personalized treatment approach that targets a patient's specific genetic cancer mutation. I loved the idea of my medicine seeking out specific cancer cells and zapping them.
My first needle biopsy had been submitted for genomic testing, but only for the two most common genomic mutations. It was another huge blow when my oncologist told me I tested negative for both. Yet, he was confident we could still find something to save me from relying on chemotherapy, so we made the decision to have surgery to remove a nodule and submit it for a comprehensive genomic profiling.
When the results came back, I felt like I had hit the genomic lottery. I am ROS-1 positive, a genomic alteration that qualifies me for a targeted therapy in the form of a pill. I take my precision medicine twice a day with few side effects and it keeps my cancer in remission. I am happily, and proudly, NED (No Evidence of Disease.)
Precision medicine has put my cancer on pause. It is the future of cancer treatment. Sadly, most patients still do not know these breakthrough tests and therapies exist, nor is it routine for doctors to offer this lifesaving test to all patients.
You think you have all the time in the world and then one day your world comes to an abrupt stop. On October 02, 2013 I lost my mom to lung cancer that progressed to terminal cancer. Those last two years were hard...not just for me, but also my family. To watch the one person you thought was super woman because her name is "mom" to go through so much pain, yet try to live everyday as everything is normal is so hard on the soul.
We found out in late 2011 when the doctors diagnosed her with cancer again. Yes again! She was having a terrible cough and thought it might have been bronchitis. But we were wrong. When I was a child my mother had cancer that went into remission. Over 20 years later it returned, and in full force. Since she was older her body was not healing as fast as it used to. At first I didn't want to accept it because she didn't smoke or drink or do other drugs. I thought it would just pass. Shortly after, my mom gathered the strength like she always did and planned her own funeral...even down to the color of her casket and what she wanted to wear. She made it seem like she was going away on a short vacation and would be back.
I went through denial for a while, and then I started getting sick and having upper respiratory issues. It was like my body was mimicking my mother's symptoms because I didn't want to her to feel the pain alone. I went through countless doctors, surgeries, and what I thought were asthma attacks, but they couldn't find anything. But all along it was my heart breaking.
It has been a little over a year now since my mother's homecoming and her getting her wings. I know she is still with me and strange things prove she is still here. So as you can see this is not just a Walk for me...it's saying I believe and want others to believe one step at a time.
LUNG FORCE Heroes are patients, caregivers, family, friends and co-workers of those who are impacted by lung cancer —or other lung diseases. Our Heroes share their powerful journeys - stories which help educate the public about what it’s like to have lung cancer or lung disease. Heroes may also be asked to speak at a LUNG FORCE Walk Kick-off event, Corporate Recruitment event and/or on Walk day.
If you're interested in becoming a LUNG FORCE Hero, please contact Colleen Ryan for more information. And we invite you to Share Your Voice on our website and read about other people’s experiences too. Everyone’s story is unique, and we appreciate you getting involved and becoming a LUNG FORCE Hero!