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Miriam J., NY

March 2016, I was 61 years old and diagnosed with cancer; female; never-smoker. A large lesion was found in my lumbar spine during a spinal MRI for an unrelated injury. After a spinal biopsy and CT scan of the chest and abdomen I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer, stage IV, in my right lung, metastasized to bone and brain. A brain MRI found a lesion in my cerebellum.

After a lung biopsy it was determined that it was not in my DNA but was a mutation, EGFR, cause unknown. I was told that 25% of lung cancers are never-smokers. My treatments started with radiation (10 sessions) to the lumbar spine; tarceva (chemo pill) for nine months. I got all the side effects of Tarceva with none of the benefits. I was then given various infused chemo therapies which made me very nauseous, fatigued, limited appetite, swelling, etc. I had an infusion port implanted in Nov. 2017. I took IV chemo for eight months, until I could no longer tolerate it, though it kept me stable. I had another radiation treatment to my left hip, Cyberknife (CK) to the brain Aug, 2016, CK to lumbar spine Jan. 2017 & CK to the brain March 2018 when they found two more lesions in the brain: frontal lobe & occipital.

Because I could not tolerate the chemo any longer, I was given three options: stay on it, go off of it for a period of time or try immunotherapy (Opdivo). I chose Opdivo since going cold turkey scared the heck out of me. Even though I was not a good candidate for immunotherapy, since I had the EGFR marker, I started Opdivo (also infused) and my next chest CT scan showed the primary lung tumor had slightly diminished: I beat the odds. I am still on Opdivo praying my next scan continues to show at least stability. I have brain MRIs every three months and CK will be done if they find more brain lesions. Lumbar MRI every six months and CK if any lesions pop up. CK is great, non-invasive, no pain or discomfort. To me it was a "walk in the park". I highly recommend it is offered. The brain was a 1/2 hour one day session; lumbar needed five days 1/2 sessions in a roll.

Cancer research is now excited about "The Abscopal Effect" - which applies when CK is done to a non-primary lesion and the patient is taking immunotherapy. The CK with immunotherapy may diminish the other lesions in the body. I am over two years now and feel the best I have felt during that period. Immunotherapy has very few, if any side effects. Unfortunately, I still have to take pain medication so their are side effects there. I pray I will continue to be a candidate for CK and immunotherapy; both are pro-longing my life. It also helps my family to see me more myself these days. I am fortunate to have supportive family and friends to love me and help me be comfortable and get to & from the numerous doctor, tests and procedure appointments. It has been quite a ride! I have great doctors and a very established hospital in my backyard.

First Published: May 4, 2018

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