Lizzie B

Lizzie B., ME

August 2015 changed our lives forever: my mother, Candice Warren, was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. My mother was strong and completely asymptomatic- her cancer was diagnosed based on an incidental finding on an unrelated MRI for sciatica and lower back pain. My mother was a force: a mother of three beautiful children, stepmother to three more and an LICSW who guided teenagers with borderline personality disorder through dialectical behavioral therapy on the road to recovery and a full life after trauma. 

Our family faces a syndromic diagnosis around Lynch syndrome: Lynch syndrome encapsulates a spectrum of cancer diagnoses from nonpolyposial colorectal cancer to uterine, brain, stomach, liver, kidney and a variety of other cancers. Lung cancer does not commonly occur within this spectrum. At the time of my mother’s diagnosis, she lost her mother to colorectal cancer, my uncle (mom’s brother) was diagnosed with the same at a very young age (42 years old) and my cousins faced breast and brain cancer. My mother smoked a few cigarettes a day in the 70’s but was very health conscientious and we were not prepared for this particular diagnosis. 

Our initial prognosis was bleak: stage IV lung cancer with a malignant effusion held a prognosis of 6 months. We would not accept this. I am a pediatric hospitalist and was just beginning my career as an attending physician at the time of her diagnosis. Together, we insisted on obtaining further opinion. Thuswe met Dr. Alice Shaw and Dr. Jessica Lin at Massachusetts General Hospital and began a much more optimistic journey fighting this terminal diagnosis.

From the beginning, I felt solidarity with my mother. Both of us had faced stage O cervical cancer at age 20 requiring surgery. Not only that but my mother was my best friend and will always be my “person.” I was inspired to wear tribal face paint every single day to symbolize our connection and our solidarity. We entered this fight as partners and every day we were grateful for the fight and for one another. 

My mother and I were incredibly fortunate to have one another. I feel blessed to have a medical background and training and that she had the financial means and stamina to travel to Massachusetts General Hospital for care. My mother lived 7 amazing and full years with a diagnoses of stage IV cancer, almost unencumbered and asymptomatic. We fought through COVID when, at the beginning, I worked in the pediatric emergency department front li8ne and spent a year without giving her a hug for fear of the negative consequences. We signed on for chemotherapy, surgery, immunotherapy and all potential avenues available to extend her beautiful life- all with phenomenal success. 

Last year in March 2022 my mother was finally told that there were no further pursuable treatments and that her body could likely not handle further chemotherapy. We were devastated but forever grateful for her journey and the opportunities afforded to her by current research and available treatments. I left work to care for her alongside my siblings and she survived a wonderful 9 weeks incredibly comfortable at home. She passed ever so gently in the company of her closest loved ones. We are forever grateful to Drs. Shaw and Lin, Dr. Mark Wrona (palliative care), Hospice of Southern Maine, the Dempsey Center, the American Lung Association and the rest of our phenomenal team for ensuring that her life was full, her bravery honored, her spirit celebrated and her legacy enduring. 

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