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Emily Y

I am a 49 year old single mother of a beautiful 6 year old daughter. I was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma on August 1st, 2013. I believe the only reason I am alive is because I have the ALK mutation. I have been taking Xalkori for 2 years. I currently am being seen by a doctor, but am going for a second opinion with a surgeon this Friday.

Before diagnosis, I had a strange pain on my left side. This was 9 months before diagnosis. I was told by a doctor that it was a muscle spasm. 5 months later, I got really sick. I felt a cold in my upper chest, and it seemed to move down to my lower lungs. I am a teacher, but I rarely ever got sick. When I told the doctor all of this, she said take some zinc. Then I developed a cough that wouldn't go away, and a pain in my shoulder and rotator cup. I went to the same doctor, and without even examining me, she said "walking pneumonia". Oh, and I had coughed up a bit of blood, which she explained to be "from coughing too much". I was put on a Z-pack, which didn't work. Then an x-ray, which said sarcoidosis. Then more antibiotics, which didn't work. Finally, a CT scan, which said many things, none of them definitive.

I pushed for an appointment with a pulmonologist, who scheduled a bronchoscopy who later came back with the results. It was cancer. I was told on August 3rd - my daughter's 4th birthday. He urged me to quickly see an oncologist. At the time, I was on my way to Kroger to buy balloons for my daughter's party. 3 days later, my doctor called me and said they had an opening that week. My mother had registered me, and submitted my information to them. Thus began my cancer journey.

I had my first chemo that Sunday. It was horrible. I was in shock. I still am. I joined, and made many cyber friends. In October, my mutation testing finally came back, and it was discovered that I had the ALK mutation. I started taking Xalkori a week later. A radiologist at MDA said that if I didn't have the ALK mutation, I would probably be dead. I guess the hardest part of all of this is that I have a daughter, and she's only 6. I hope I get to see her grow. I want to be there when she graduates from high school. I guess one thing I've learned is this: if you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.

First published: December 1, 2015

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