LUNG FORCE Heroes
My Name is Debbie. On March 4, 2013, I went into my doctors' office thinking I would be getting my work release after being off for a week due to pneumonia. When I walked into the doctors' office and was seen immediately, I knew in my gut something wasn't right. She came in and said, "This is not good news. You have lung cancer." From that point on I knew nothing would ever be the same again. Every emotion you can have, you have in that one moment. Fear, anger, disbelief, my husband, kids and grandkids all ran through my mind. In that one moment, I thought my life was over. I watched my mother die of this when I was young so in my mind, this was the worst news I could of ever gotten.
Over the next few weeks, I was tested, biopsied, poked and prodded. If there was a test to be had, I had it done. All the while, everything going on around me was a blur. It was all happening in the blink of an eye. Finally the news came in. I had stage 4 lung cancer. The worst news I could of gotten. I knew what this meant in my mind. I didn't feel like I should have stage 4 lung cancer. I thought they were wrong. After all, I don't smoke. I haven't smoked in more than 20 years. How could I have any lung cancer, let alone stage 4? Then something in my mind just switched gears. I came out of my poor pitiful me thinking and said to myself, "Why not me? Better me than my kids or grandkids." It was time to go into survival mode. I started researching and went for a second opinion. Since the first biopsies didn't show any FDA approved mutations genes, they sent my biopsies out for further testing. They also confirmed the stage 4 diagnoses.
After all the testing, second opinions and a lot of research on my part, I have learned I have non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. I also found out I have a mutation gene called BRAF v600e. This gene is important for more targeted treatment options. In between all the doctors, I have had a thoracentesis, pleurodesis and then a chemo port put in to start treatment. I have had almost a full year of 2-3 different types of chemotherapy. I am stable and have been stable since January 2014. I am currently on a trial for my specific mutation gene and this has shown great progress so far and I will never stop researching for the next best treatment.
They say there is no cure for stage 4. I say there will be some day. Until then stable keeps me here until a cure can be found and I will take that for every day I have. The more money that is raised for research, the quicker they can find a cure or at the very least better treatment options. I am proof that anyone can get lung cancer. 2/3rds of all lung cancer is nonsmoking. Your mother, father, child can get this. The fact that lung cancer is the #1 leading cause of cancer deaths world wide is enough to take notice. More than 200,000 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. 160,000 people will die. It is that simple. It is that scary. We can all make a difference. Just raise your voice. Donate, Walk, Run or Ride. Just stand up and be heard and they will find a cure. Research has come a long way since my mom died in 1997. They still have a long way to go. By the grace of god, my family and friends and the best doctors and nurses I have come to meet, I am hoping to see better treatment options and a cure in my life time.
First published: July 18, 2018
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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.