Rona W

Rona W., CA

My journey has been one of hope, gratitude, and self-advocacy. Five years ago, I was diagnosed as a non-smoker with stage 1 non-small cell lung cancer. There was an approximate 2.5 cm adenocarcinoma nodule on my right lobe. After a lower lung lobectomy, my pulmonologist told me I was cured of cancer and to go live my life without restrictions. 

I had new purpose and the following year I did my first Lung Force Walk. Later, I started sharing my story at small survivor events. The best part of sharing my story was sharing that I was cured, and it was all behind me. I was grateful to use the road that I traveled as encouragement for others. Little did I know that I’d be encouraging myself though it all once again.

2 years ago, I saw an oncologist for the first time when multiple tumors were found on both lungs and a lymph node. I’d been complaining about pain and given a nebulizer and pain medicine. When an 8X3 mm ground glass opacity was found on a CT scan in the very location that I complained of pain, I was told that the pain I described wasn’t consistent with what was found. Finally, I was referred to oncology for the 1st time. The oncologist said it was so small that we would just repeat the scan in 3 months. It hadn’t changed and I was told it was likely nothing and we would repeat the scan again in 6 months. I should’ve made an appointment with an NIH Center but was busy balancing the life of a mom, wife, and entrepreneur. 

After a few months, the pain grew debilitating, so I insisted on another scan ASAP. That’s when they found the nodule had grown to 17x17 mm along with others that scattered to both lungs and the lymph node. I was fearful and furious! 

Once again, I found purpose in my struggle and today I am grateful that God spared my life. I am also grateful for the research that led to the targeted therapy pill I take daily. Doctors say I will need to take it indefinitely, but I am hopeful and believe the cure is already in the making. 

My schedule is riddled with appointments as I see various specialists to manage numerous side effects in addition to regular follow-up visits. I’ve spent countless dollars on lung health from air purifiers to HVAC scrubbers and often wonder what’s helpful vs unnecessary. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a part of our health care would have technicians come to the home and evaluate what might be contributing to failing health  and what is needed? 

This journey has led me to advocate for myself and others via fundraising, spreading awareness, and taking my voice to Capital Hill. Before an appointment, I do my own research and take it with questions to my doctor appointments. I seek holistic, homeopathic, integrative, alternative therapies to help with side effects and aid in healing. Currently, I'm a patient with UCLA's Integrative Oncology department.

We must continue to find healthier ways to manage chronic disease. There’s much more work to be done. I remain hopeful for a cure to advanced stage lung cancer. I believe diminished lung capacity can be reversed. I am grateful for the American Lung Association and the platform it's has provided to share my story. I am grateful to be a Lung Force Hero and to be able to volunteer with such a meaningful cause. 

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