Lori Hagerty, R.N., B.S.N

I know my story is similar to many others who have had the misfortune of dealing with a diagnosis of lung cancer.  The symptoms appear quickly, seemingly out of nowhere and all too often a sign that the cancer has spread well beyond the lungs- too late for a cure. 

My story began Dec 10 2007 when my mom told me of some nagging numbness and pain in her left foot. She was  60 yrs old, working full time as a hairdresser and with more energy than I could even imagine at even ½ her age.  Within a week, the symptoms spread up her entire left side of her body, from the top of her head to the bottom of her foot. Pain, weakness, numbness and an annoying "cold" sensation that would not let up.  A brain CT  scan revealed an inoperable brain tumor. For a few days we thought she had brain cancer, but further tests told us otherwise-  a very large mass was found in her lungs and several others in her liver.  Stage 4 lung cancer. NO cure.  Devastating news, the kind that takes your breath away. Panic sets in, but you try to be optimistic and positive and start going through the motions of "treatment".  10 whole brain radiation treatments began almost immediately.  The side effects (of the radiation and/or the Decadron given to help reduce brain swelling) were debililtating- loss of hair, weakness that left her bedbound and unable to care for herself, and extreme mental status changes (confusion, combativeness).  By mid January 2008 (6 short weeks later), she was recovering in a nursing home, trying to get strong enough to return home. Her mental status recovered, but physically she needed a lot of help. Her oncologist told me she may only have a few weeks left to live if she didn't bounce back and gain enough weight to be able to endure the chemo she needed.  She was discharged from the nursing home while I was in the hospital after giving birth to my 2nd baby/ her 2nd grandson, but she needed 24hour care from outside help. She thankfully did get better and received 4 cycles of chemotherapy and by spring had a reduction in the size of all of her tumors, but the chemo left her a shadow of the person she was before- her weight plummeted to 88 lbs. So, we decided to hold the chemo, let her feel a little better, enjoy the spring/summer (her favorite time of year) and hopefully gain enough weight to restart chemo later, if needed.  She/we did enjoy some wonderful time that summer with lots of visits from friends and family (including the new grandson), a few nice "day trips", lunches out, and a few fun nights out with girlfriends to listen to her favorite bands. Fall 2008 brought the bad, but not unexpected news that the tumors were growing and spreading.  More chemo was offered, but mom bravely decided the quality of what time she had left was more important than quantity.  We enlisted the help of home Hospice and she slowly declined over the next 2 months.   While holding her hand and laying by her side, she took her last breath on November 2, 2008 at 3:30 pm. 

I will never be the same and can only hope that through the efforts of researchers and help by organizations such as the American Lung Association, a cure for lung cancer will eventually be found.