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LUNG FORCE Heroes

Michelle H.

It all started with a small cough in June, 2018. Initially diagnosed as allergies and potentially acid reflux disease no one was thinking about lung cancer in a healthy 51 year old competitive rower. After three doctors, 12 appointments and an arsenal of medication, a smart nurse ordered a CT scan. This led to an admission for atypical pneumonitis. We were shocked to learn 48 hours after discharge, to be diagnosed with Non Small Cell Lung Cancer.

I never smoked. I had no idea that anyone with lungs is at risk. The PET scan was delayed when the insurance company denied the initial request. A week later, we received the devastating news- Stage IV. The insurance company once again delayed treatment while the chemo was declared “a matter of convenience”. As a health care executive I was unprepared to fight for my life and my treatment. Fortunately the comprehensive biomarker revealed the ALK Positive mutation.

Once I started targeted therapy, my symptoms began to improve. There was hope! As a rower we learn that patience, persistence and perseverance pays off. While there is no lung cancer screening criteria for healthy non-smoking women, with treatment advances we can be persistent to raise lung cancer awareness in the primary care community.

First published: November 12, 2019

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Hero stories are the point of view of the Hero and not necessarily the American Lung Association. The Lung Association does not endorse any specific provider, facility or treatment.

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