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Kellee M., FL

On Dec. 11, 2014, my mom was having chest pain for a couple hours and it was very difficult to breathe, so she went to the hospital and asked my dad to meet her there. The hospital ran some tests thinking it was her heart but all checked out good there. When the doctor came in to deliver her CAT scan results, she wasn't prepared to hear the news that would forever change her life. The doctor said abruptly, "We found a spot on your lung and it appears to be a tumor."

My mom's heart sank; she leaned over to my dad and asked him for a bag because she was going to throw up. My parents agreed not to share the news with anyone, especially me and my sister, until they knew more. My dad secretly confided in a friend, who is a PA at Mayo Clinic, because he was so scared about what this meant. Over the next several weeks my mom had a biopsy, more tests, and met with a wonderful oncologist. Her test results confirmed she had Stage 4 lung cancer in both lungs, and would need chemotherapy treatment through a port in her chest every three weeks for eight hours at a time.

Fast forward to the end of January 2015, after the holidays and once my parents learned more about the disease, her recommended treatment, and had some time to digest it all. They first revealed the news to my husband and brother-in-law so they would be ready for what was about to happen when they told me and Kimberlee. I will never forget that day! It was the end of a fun-filled weekend visiting with my sister, as we do often. Much of the time spent watching my nephew Dylan (then, 6 months old) and my daughter, Alexis (then 3 years old) was priceless. I was also six months pregnant. My parents sat us down, and very stoically told us the most devastating news I had ever heard in my life. I felt like my world had come crashing down on me. My mom was quiet, my dad spoke and Kim and I cried. My mom sat between holding us tight while we cried hard on her shoulders. It just seemed so surreal. Our mom is our best friend!

Soon after my mom shared the news with the rest of our family and close friends, she began chemotherapy treatment. She lost all her hair, bought seven wigs (she wanted to have some fun with it) and continued life as she had known it to help her stay positive through this journey. She handled the chemo treatments quite well, considering. A few months following her first treatment, she had a PET scan with very positive results. Her tumors were shrinking and no new cancer was found. It was then that her oncologist decided to start her on a newly FDA approved cutting edge treatment: immunotherapy. That was July 2015 and now, two years later, her tumors continue to shrink, and no new cancer has been detected since beginning the immunotherapy. Virtually no side effects. My mom is still working, has her hair back, and is looking and feeling fantastic! She was blessed with another granddaughter in 2015, named Emilee, who she sees on the regular, and my gramps (my mom's 96 year old dad) in Orlando.

Although this journey has been incredibly scary at times, I've learned a lot about how precious life is and to never take it or the people you love for granted. I share with you a quote that reminds me of my mom in so many ways because she not just my mom and mt best friend, she is also MY HERO.

"A hero is an extraordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles." – Christopher Reeve

In honor of my mom and anyone who is fighting or has lost their life to lung disease, this walk is for you! Together, with you and your team, we will walk to raise awareness and funds to defeat lung cancer and raise our voices for lung health. That's why I have decided to participate in the LUNG FORCE Run/Walk. When you join the American Lung Association and LUNG FORCE in the fight against lung cancer and for lung health, you join us in our mission to improve lives, and save lives. Your participation and donation will help make a difference in the lives that desperately need it. To support our efforts, and to help save lives today, register now. Together, we are a FORCE to be reckoned with!

First Published: July 27, 2017

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