LUNG FORCE Heroes
Married to husband Dennis in 1987, 30 years ago, mother of two children, Kristi, 28 and Joey, 26, grandmother of two, registered nurse of 38 years, non-smoker.
December 2012 - I had what I thought was a bad cold. Cough and shortness of breath.
January 2013 - Went to a nurse practitioner. Was given ABX and an inhaler. Symptoms got worse.
February 2013 - Returned to another nurse practitioner. Listened to my lungs. Didn't like the sound of my left lung. Ordered a chest x-ray. Showed large pleural effusion, fluid around lung. Had thoracentesis performed to drain fluid. So thankful to her for picking this up.
February 13, 2013 - Admitted into hospital at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center by my friend following procedure. Multiple blood tests done. Pathology results came back from pleural fluid. My doctor sat on my bed, held my hand, and told me I had cancer. I was devastated!
February 15, 2013 - Diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Met with an oncologist. Given less than one year to live. He wanted to start chemo right away. Had port placed. Discharged home on February 16.
Initially decided not to do chemo, no treatment. Told family I was going to do hospice. Phone call from my primary physician. He changed my mind.
Did year of intravenous chemo. Continued to have frequent thoracentesis due to returning fluid around lung. Also had fluid around heart. CT scans of chest, abdomen, and pelvis every three months along with echocardiogram to monitor the paricardial effusion.
August 2013 - had procedure called pleurodesis. Chest tube inserted to drain fluid. My doctor inserted a talc powder to fuse the lining of the lung together. This took away that potential space to collect further fluid. Continued to have increased fluid around heart called a pericardial effusion. Ended up having a pericardialcentesis where they go in with a needle to drain the fluid.
March 2014 - IV chemo no longer effective. Continued problems with fluid around heart. Had surgical procedure where they opened my chest and placed a pericardial window to drain the fluid from around the heart. Sent to Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City for second opinion. Found to have the ALK mutation. This was a good thing. Able to go on targeted therapy. This was an oral drug.
April 2014 - Started in a first generation targeted therapy drug called Crizotinib. I was on this for 18 months.
October 15, 2015 - My first grandchild, William Leon, was born in Livingston, Montana.
November 2015 - Started having some vision changes, difficulty coming up with correct words, and some balance issues. Had a brain MRI which showed a large brain tumor in the left occipital area and a smaller one in the right cerebellum. Emergent surgery was scheduled to remove the larger tumor. I was in the hospital for five days. Came home on Thanksgiving. Stopped my current targeted therapy due to progression.
December 2015 - Started radiation to both the operative site and the smaller tumor. I had a total of 3 radiation treatments here Idaho Falls. The smaller tumor was radiated just once at Ogden Regional Hospital in Utah due to its small size. After consulting with a doctor at Huntsman in Salt Lake City, I was switched over to a second generation targeted therapy drug, Ceritinib.
December 2017 - My second grandchild, Paloma June was born.
January 2018 - I have been on this drug for 25 months now and things remain stable. I have had no progression. They continue to monitor two areas of radiation necrosis in the brain. I continue to have MRIs of the brain every two months and CTs of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis every three months.
Celebrating my five-year anniversary from my initial diagnosis on February 15. My doctor and I have a very close relationship. The five-year survival rate for all lung cancer is 18%. I feel so fortunate. Lung cancer accounts for 27% of all cancers deaths-more than the next three deadliest cancers combined-breast, colon and pancreas.
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