Stage IV Lung Cancer – a frightening diagnosis, and a shocking one, too, for a non-smoker. Just weeks after my 65th birthday celebration, I was preparing to leave home to drive with a colleague to a board meeting for an organization where we both volunteer. I suddenly had an odd sensation – my right hand would not respond to what my brain wanted it to do. I couldn’t make it scratch my shoulder or pick up a hairbrush - a synapse wasn’t connecting. The feeling disappeared almost as soon as it had appeared. I chose to ignore it and went about my day. But, when it happened a second time a few hours later, my husband insisted I go to the emergency room. I expected to be told I had had a minor stroke. The brain MRI instead showed a metastasis. The positive to that, I was told, was that I didn’t have brain cancer, but a cancer elsewhere in my body that had metastasized. The follow-up CT scan showed it was non-small-cell adenocarcinoma, or in lay terms, non-smoker’s lung cancer.
That was 18 months ago, and I have experienced all the emotions one would expect – from disbelief, to anger, to “why me?,” to crying spells, and to gratitude that I have a loving and supportive family and wonderful friends who are here for me.
Stage IV cancers have no cure. I know this diagnosis is an eventual death sentence. My treatment has included radiation to the brain to reduce the size of the tumors, and a daily oral drug (osimertinib, brand name Tagrisso) that is targeted to treat the particular gene mutation of my form of lung cancer. The good news for me is that to date, the treatment is working; I am feeing well, the side effects have been minor and I am able to enjoy most of my former activities. The bad news is that research shows Tagrisso works on average for 19 months. Then, who knows?
My first grandchild, a girl, is due to be born in 9 weeks. I want to know her and have her know me. I am praying for 19 years, not 19 months. But without continued research and new treatments, my days with her will be limited. I am now 66. That may seem old to many and young to some. But, I have been healthy, active and fit all my life until this surprise diagnosis.
My parents lived into their 90s, and I certainly expected the same for me. I still have much to offer this world as a mom, wife, volunteer and soon-to-be grandmother. With your support, I can share with her the glory of nature, the love of books and an appreciation for good government.