LUNG FORCE Heroes
I am Donna. A wife of over 40 years, a mom, a daughter, a sister, and a stage IV lung cancer survivor. My fight against lung cancer began unexpectedly in October 2012 when my primary care physician felt a tiny knot on my lymph node. She ordered an immediate CT scan. And, with that, my life changed forever. At the time of my diagnosis, I was as active as I had ever been in my life. I worked full time and ran agility with my two dogs four days a week and every day on the weekend. I was always on the move and felt great. I had absolutely no symptoms: no cough, no wheezing, no nothing.
When my cancer was discovered, my tumors were inoperable and, due to their locations, radiation was not an option. So, I immediately began traditional chemo (Avastin, Alimta, and carboplatin, followed by Avastin only). Fortunately, the tumors shrank as long as I was receiving treatment. But, when my oncologist gave my body a break, the tumors rapidly returned to their initial sizes.
At that point, I was told that I had two options: begin a regimen of a chemotherapy that was harsher than what I had already been given or try to get into a clinical trial. I had no desire to continue with a chemotherapy bound to make me sick, so I quickly chose to go into a clinical trial. At this point, I had little hope that my life would be spared. I thought that entering a clinical trial would allow me to pave the road for those coming behind me, but I really never imagined that it would benefit me. I was so wrong.
I entered a clinical trial in July 2013. I was lucky enough to get into a Phase III trial for an immunotherapy, a drug called Opdivo or nivolumab. My life changed completely. Immediately, my tumors stopped growing or spreading. And, I started feeling great again. There was no more vomiting or severe nausea. The devastating fatigue that made it difficult to walk only 10 feet was a painful memory. My life returned to me. Opdivo is administered intravenously, every two weeks. It only takes one hour to drip. For over two years, the drug has kept my cancer completely stable. And, I resumed life as I knew it before my cancer diagnosis. It isn't that my cancer is gone. It isn't. I still have to have treatments and I have CT scans every three months to make sure that the immunotherapy is still working. But, because of entering a clinical trial and, specifically, due to Opdivo, I am alive and living!
First published: December 11, 2015
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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.