In October of 2014 my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. She gave me the life-changing news when I was about to board a plane traveling back home from California to Atlanta. For those three and half hours I cried silently in my window seat thinking about the likely little time we had left and everything I could do to maximize that time with her.
My mom told her doctor that she didn't want to be given a timeline - that she could not handle that information easily, and he smartly told her "I'm not God - I cannot tell you that". She had the EGFR mutation and qualified for a targeted therapy and began taking medication. This targeted therapy carried her through the first 16 months of treatment before she began to develop a resistance to the drug. She has since been on and off of an immunotherapy, and then another targeted therapy.
She is currently in between treatments, but is doing quite well, all things considered, and just recently past the three year mark of her diagnosis. This, in my mind, is nothing short of miraculous. These newer treatments, targeted therapies and immunotherapies, have no doubt made a difference - not just in her prognosis but her relative quality of life.
Wanting to get involved in helping educate and fight against lung cancer, I joined the Georgia Board of the American Lung Association. This is when I discovered that lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in women and 20 percent of women that get lung cancer are never smokers. My mom never smoked. LUNG FORCE Walk, the signature fund-raising event for the American Lung Association, goes a long way to help make up for the relative lack of funding for lung cancer research compared to other cancers.
While much progress has been made with these new treatments, more funding is needed to reach the ultimate goal of transforming lung cancer from an incurable disease to a curable one or chronic disease that can be managed.
My mom is joining me this year on November 4, her granddaughter's 10th birthday, to celebrate the years that she's lived with this disease beyond what she expected.