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Nicole R.

At 36 years old, I was happy, I was re-married with a great pre-teen daughter and 2 wonderful step-sons - life couldn't have been better. In December 2015, I had come down with a cough. It progressively got worse as time went on and while on a New Year's trip to Las Vegas, I began to feel like something was not right, like I had a heaviness in my chest and pain.

When we returned home, I visited Urgent Care who diagnosed me with bronchitis, he prescribed me antibiotics and steroids and told me to follow up with my doctor in a few weeks. The pain got worse, the cough never went away, so I went to my normal Urgent Care facility and the doctor there diagnosed me with pneumonia, gave me more medication and told me to follow up to make sure it was clearing. After a few more weeks, nothing changed, in fact it had gotten worse. I was in pain, couldn't sleep and had trouble breathing. I went back for an x-ray where the doctor referred me to the Emergency Room because she thought I had a blood clot and my "pneumonia" had gotten worse not better. On February 13, 2016 while in the Emergency Room I was told I had lung cancer. I was given anxiety meds and an appointment the following Monday with an oncologist. My life from that moment on was forever changed. Lung cancer is no stranger to my family, my Grandfather passed from in 2000 from lung cancer and from diagnosis to death only had 6 month, so being diagnosed was the scariest thing EVER!

In the end, I was diagnosed with Stage IV, Adenocarcinoma of the lung with mets to the brain, pelvis and bones. Gene mutational testing was completed and I was found to be EGFR positive and eligible to take a targeted therapy pill called Tarceva. The side effects initially were horrendous, I had already been in a deep depression since diagnosis and the side effects just made it worse. The funny thing is, physically, I felt better, my cough was gone within a week on Tarceva and I was breathing easier and had more energy.

I am now 6 months in on Tarceva and my brain mets are gone, my bone mets are healing and my lung tumor has shrunken from 8 cm to 1 cm. My oncologist has since stated I am in an "excellent remission." This year has by far, been the hardest, on me, my husband and my children. What cancer can do for a family however, is bring it closer. Out of all of this sadness, pain and anxiety, has come a new light that I have seen about life.

I will fight this disease for as long as I can, as hard as I can because I have a family that loves me and wants me in their life. They have been my support for the past 8 months of this long process and without them, I know that I would not be here!

Lung cancer has a great future coming down the line. The new treatments, testing, clinical trials, all of it gives me great hope that we can change this into a chronic disease and not as a death sentence!

First Published: September 29, 2016

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