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Anne P

My name is Anne and I have Stage IV non-small-cell lung cancer with the EGFR mutation. I was diagnosed in May of 2015 at the age of 42. Many people are curious to know how the disease was diagnosed since it can easily go undetected. I had a series of seemingly unrelated symptoms for approximately two weeks and I knew something was wrong. On Monday I had an appointment with a PA at my PCP's office and she referred me to a neurologist. Tuesday morning, I had a seizure at home and went into the hospital. I immediately had several scans that showed masses in my brain and lungs. On Thursday I had brain surgery to remove the tumor that caused the seizure. Analysis of that tumor confirmed the initial diagnosis: Stage IV lung cancer with metastasis to the brain.

The diagnosis was a complete shock. I have never smoked. I was only 42 years old. I have two young kids. My lung cancer has no cure. Surgery to the main tumor on my left lung is not an option. The doctors radiated the remaining metastasis in my brain in the 6 weeks after my initial tumor removal using Gamma Knife technology.

Because my tumor tested positive for one of three common gene mutations, I am able to take a pill each day to suppress cancer growth throughout my body. Current research and drug trials support development of additional pharmaceuticals used to treat variations on lung cancer gene mutations. I live in Denver Colorado, and there is a world-class research institute here, at the University of Colorado, that is actively involved with these research trials.

I take a pill each day and I have quarterly scans to track the status of the cancer. The first set of scans after I started treatment showed huge improvement: my lung tumor shrank by almost 50% and the brain mets also showed improvement. Subsequent scans show additional tumor shrinkage and stability.

Cancer has changed me in many ways. Though I have no outward signs of sickness, I have had to slow down a lot. I make a huge effort to take care of myself and my family. I've started eating much better and meditating. I am living a much more positive lifestyle, full of healthy, active pursuits, despite having lung cancer.

First published: July 12, 2016

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