On September 11, 2014 I got a call from my primary care doctor telling me the results of a biopsy of a lymph node in my neck showed lung cancer. Lung cancer?! How is this possible? I am (was) 39 and had quit smoking five years earlier and felt totally 100% healthy. I had my hands full with a 1 year old and felt like I could run a marathon if inclined. Nonetheless what followed was a battery of tests, meetings with an oncologist, and an full investigation into what exactly was going on here. The fact I felt fine was puzzling to my doctor but soon enough we would have our answer. Yes I had lung cancer, yes it was stage IV but it's presentation was an anomaly.
I have what is called "lymph node only lung cancer". What this specifically means is that my cancer is non-small cell lung cancer but I have no tumors or sign of it in my lungs whatsoever. It's completely confined to the lymph nodes in my chest (most, if not all of them) and neck. My doctor has only seen this presentation in two other patients over the course of his 8+ years in the field. After doing genetic testing on my cancer (which came back as a HER2 mutation, also incredibly rare in lung cancer) a treatment plan was put in place. Six rounds of chemo (cisplatin, avastin, and alimta) were prescribed every three weeks. Followed by 35 sessions of intense, broad field radiation to my chest and neck.
Thankfully my cancer is incredibly sensitive to treatment and I am currently NED. I still have maintenance chemo every 4 weeks (hoping to get to every 6 weeks eventually). However I feel incredibly lucky and now want to share my story with the hope that it will in some way, any way, help others. Whether that is to stop smoking (or not ever start), or to get scanned as a means of getting an early diagnosis, or simply to give others hope that it is possible to live and thrive with this horrible disease. Organizations like the American Lung Association and LUNG FORCE are a huge part of that and your gifts of money and/or time are instrumental in making sure that new treatments are researched and awareness to our cause is spread. Thank you to everyone that supports my fellow survivors. Together I am confident we can and will make dying from lung cancer a rarity rather than the norm.
First Published: May 11, 2016
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