Imagine being in Iceland, flying 30,000 feet in the air on sight line for the lunar eclipse! What a wonderful expedition! It was only marred by a persistent cough. Not a deep chest cough, just mucus running down the back of my throat clearing cough. Returning home, I visited three doctors and finally a pulmonologist to find the cause of this cough. The pulmonologist took a chest e-ray which led to a biopsy. Three days later; in July, 2015, we were hearing the news stage IV adenocarcinoma ALK POSITIVE. Stage four lung cancer; I thought this is impossible. I’m not a smoker, I taught physical education in public school and at the college level. I am healthy and only 63 years old. To hear that I have maybe three years left, spurred me to action.
Fortunately, I have access to world class doctors and treatment. I feel privileged to have affordable health insurance, accessible and timely treatments. My local Cancer Center offered only standard treatment for ALK positive. But changing oncologists lead me to a clinical trial on Lorlatinib which extended my life another 14 months. Three years later and two rounds of different chemotherapy treatments, I am back on a TKI. I marvel at the advancements being made in lung cancer and considered myself lucky to benefit from the new drugs and clinical trials.
Our life, ( husband and adult child) has changed dramatically and then hardly at all. We coped in our own ways, fought depression and anger, discussed my diminished mental faculties, researched all things related to ALK and surrounded ourselves with family and friends. i found alternative therapy in acupuncture to greatly decrease the fatigue from chemotherapy. I continued to workout at the gym three times a week, and used exercise as a method to measure the effectiveness of my treatments.
My husband and I have traveled to all seven Continents. We have snorkeling in two of the three most beautiful barrier reefs, climbed glaciers and on top of one glacier heard the heart warming words “WE ARE “ to which my husband and I yelled back “PENN STATE”! We marvel at the various cultures traveling affords to us and continue to learn more about the world and people.
Covid has put a damper on our travels, but we hope to resume as time allows. Three trips in the planning. I treat this cancer as a chronic condition. it has given me difficult days and then provided the care and love from family and friends. It has become part of me. I would like to say it does not define me, but has just added to the complexity of me.