Jamie E

Jamie E., CO

My name is Jamie Ellefson. I am 47 years old, a Colorado native, married, and have a beautiful 9 year old daughter. I have NEVER smoked and I am a very fit, healthy and active person. I have always been very passionate about health, fitness and the outdoors.

My story begins on July 31, 2021. I became very ill with food poisoning. My primary care doctor initially suspected appendicitis and sent me to the ER. On a CT scan, they happened to catch an image of the bottom of my lungs and found a large nodule in my left lower lung lobe. They didn’t know what it was and told me I needed to have it checked immediately. The pulmonologist suspected it was a nodule caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. She tried putting me on a 2 week course of heavy duty antibiotics and then did another CT scan. The nodule remained unchanged.

After a very painful biopsy of the nodule, I received the dreaded phone call telling me that I in fact had NSCLC (non small cell lung cancer). At that point I was considered to have stage 2B lung cancer as it had already metastasized to my lymph nodes. I was immediately referred to a cardiothoracic surgeon for a consultation. I was told I would need to have half of my entire left lung removed surgically, followed by 4 months of chemotherapy. I had surgery October 25, 2021 and then began chemotherapy in Dec 2021 and my last round was March 2022.

The biomarker testing I initially had done on my tumor did not show any genetic mutations driving my cancer. But after seeking a second opinion from Dr. Patil at UcHealth, he ordered much more extensive biomarker testing to be done. The results showed exactly what he suspected, that I had RET positive lung cancer. He told me that finding that information was extremely important and would change the entire course of my treatment. 

I completed my chemotherapy after surgery and had my CT scans and blood work at the end of March 2022 to see if the treatment had worked. The surgery and chemo worked and there was no evidence of disease at that point. I continued with surveillance CT scans and blood work every 3 months to make sure the cancer hadn’t returned. I was considered NED for about 14 months and then in June 2023, my scans showed that tragically my cancer had returned and I had 3 new tumors in the pleural lining of my chest cavity.

I now am considered to have stage 4A terminal cancer. I was immediately put on a drug called Retevmo which is a drug that specifically targets RET positive cancer cells. I have been on Retevmo since July 2023 and it has been working very well to shrink my tumors and prevent new ones from growing. If I wouldn’t have trusted my gut to get a second opinion and had proceeded with my first oncologist and his treatment plan, I wouldn’t be alive today. Dr. Patil truly saved my life by having extensive biomarker testing done on my tumor and finding out the driver of my cancer. If we didn’t know I had RET positive lung cancer, no one would have ever known to put me on the life-saving drug Retevmo and I wouldn’t be alive today to tell my story.

I want to share my story with other people affected by lung cancer because anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. Cancer doesn't discriminate. Every person living with lung cancer deserves hope and the best treatment options available to them. I don't just want to be a lung cancer victim, I want to have a voice and stand up and advocate for funding for lung cancer research and treatment so hopefully one day this dreaded disease will have a cure!

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