July 22, 2016; the day my mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and our lives were turned upside down. We were shocked. Speechless. Scared. Sad. With less than a five-year smoking history and having quit before I was born over 30 years ago, my mom was the last person I'd imagine to be diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 66.
Once reality sunk in, the next several weeks entailed daily radiation treatments to the eight lesions on her brain, the cancerous mass of her collarbone, and the numerous tumors of her spine that spanned from her neck to her hip and pelvis. These days were grueling, exhausting, and painful for the both of us. As an only child and having lost my dad to esophageal cancer when I was 20 years old, I had to step up and become the primary caregiver. Here I was trying to balance a full time job in medicine, continue my social life with friends, make time for my then boyfriend, all while caring for my mom, bringing her to appointment after appointment, and moving in with her because she required 24/7 assistance. I felt so helpless each time I'd see her scream and cry out in pain that we would just sit there and cry together.
A month had passed since her diagnosis when we found out about a clinical trial at National Institute of Health (NIH) for metastatic lung cancer. After two weeks of additional testing at NIH to see if my mom would qualify for the trial, we got the news that she was in! Our first prayer of many was answered. Then began the monthly trips to D.C. for appointments, scans, and bloodwork. Like clockwork, we would take the same 6 a.m. flight to D.C. and return later that same day at 10 p.m. month after month. It made for a long day, but my mom's fight and determination got us through each trip. Each month we were faced with increased anxiety and fear, as we never knew when the NIH doctors would tell us that the medicine was no longer working. But it is with great joy and gratefulness that I can say it has been one year since my mom's diagnosis and she is doing great! Her scans are stable since last year, her strength and appetite have improved, and her spirits are as high as ever. As my mom says, it is because of her amazing team of doctors and nurses, the prayers from our loving family and friends, and God's grace that have helped her to not give up on her battle against lung cancer.
Each day presents its challenges, but I am glad I can be there for my mom. She was the primary caregiver for my dad during his fight against cancer and was my rock after he passed away. So now I'm honored to return the favor - to be her caregiver and rock as she fights her battle against lung cancer. Only God knows what will happen next, but I do know that my mom will always be my best friend.