My Mom was diagnosed with stage IV ALK+ lung cancer in July 2014. Her first symptoms seemed like she had an upper respiratory infection - a runny nose and bad cough. Having been a never smoker with no other risk factors, her doctors ran every test for pneumonia and allergies never considering that it might be cancer. After every test came back without a diagnosis, a chest CT finally showed one small "shadow" and they decided to take a biopsy. Her diagnosis felt like a death sentence. There was no reason for her to have lung cancer and finding it at such a late stage was heartbreaking.
We were fortunate to connect with the American Lung Association immediate after her diagnosis and were provided steps to take for tumor testing and connected us to the leading ALK researcher once the diagnosis was made. After four years, Mom is living with cancer as if it is a chronic condition. While her schedule revolves around oncology appointments and treatment every three weeks, she has traveled to Africa, Central and South America, Western Europe and soon to Antarctica. I don't know many people who can say they've stepped foot onto every continent, let alone having done so with stage IV cancer.
I've been amazed at how quickly science is changing and the number of treatments becoming available to patients. One treatment in clinical trial she participated in didn't exist when she was diagnosed. We all genuinely believe that she probably would not be in such good health without working directly with a cancer center that specializes in ALK+ lung cancer. And I have to give credit to both of my parents hope, positive attitudes, and willingness to do whatever it takes to find the best treatment possible. While this disease is heartbreaking there is still life to be had, my Mom is proof of this every day.