LUNG FORCE Heroes
In 2009, I had surgery for a biopsy in my upper right lung. It proved to be stage 1A adenocarcinoma and the upper lobe was removed. Within 6-weeks I was back to riding my bike, and 10-months after my surgery, I rode in my first charity ride for the ALA, Cycle the Seacoast I continued riding through the following years, enjoying my freedom of movement. When I could no longer ride in the CTS, I volunteered, enjoying all the folks I met along the way.. Every year, I returned to my thoracic surgeon for my follow-up CT scans.. When I went for #5, I learned that cancer had returned. I took it in stride, thinking it was another 1A. I was referred to a medical oncologist and learned that what I have is stage 4 (EGFR L858R) metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, metastasized to my lumbar spine and right paratracheal lymph node. Initially, it was not a huge shock, since I already knew I had cancer, but the words "incurable" and "palliative" care took time to settle in. Okay, so now I knew things were going to be different from then on. My treatment plan included 10-days of radiation on my back and prescription for targeted therapy, Elotinib (Tarceva).
My decision on the day of the stage 4 news was to remain positive, keep laughing and smiling and be helpful to others. In the year and a half since diagnosis, I have remained active, working out at the YMCA and returning for my quarterly CT scan. I am blessed to have the diagnosis go forward with no changes, I have been maintaining an excellent level and I'm happy.
At the moment, I am researching how to start a lung cancer survivors support group. I find that when lung cancer folks get together to talk, they understand each other. So I'm checking it out. I am loving life, living with cancer, and thinking of today, planning for tomorrow if I am fortunate enough to be given that. I do think about the future and end times, but I refuse to dwell on it all. Today is my day!.
Over time, I have discovered that my friends and family, strangers and acquaintances find inspiration through me and my approach to life. I certainly did not start out looking for that, but if it is a byproduct of the way I live with cancer, I am happy to accept the role. Life is good and is every bit worth living and enjoying to the fullest.
Nov. 20, 2016 - This is an update to my story from a year ago. As of last May, my lung tumor has shrunken to a point where it can barely be seen. I am not going into remission or on my way to being cured, but what I have is the quality of life my oncologist had hoped for. When I saw him just a few weeks ago, he told me I am doing amazingly well. What a great thing to hear.
Since my last story, I have become involved with a program for cancer survivors, as a volunteer mentor. It is a thrill to work with others who are trying to get - or keep - their lives and health in order as they learn how to safely exercise. I have met so many participants who enjoy having an opportunity to be with others with similar goals.
Last year, I spoke of wanting to put together a support group for lung cancer survivors. Well, beginning on January 17, 2017, we will have a group! We plan to have oncology specialists come to co-facilitate at as many meetings as possible. With regard to my treatment plan with Erlotinib (Tarceva), my dosage was lowered to 100mg in December of 2014 because of the rash side effect, and just a week ago, it has been reduced to 75mg for the same reason. With the exception of non-cancer related chronic aches and pains, I am doing very well and continue to enjoy life. My purpose in life now has become a need to provide inspiration and hope for others learning to live with lung cancer, or any other cancer for that matter. My wife continues to be my caregiver, providing her endless love and assistance. My social circle provides support in ways that simply make me want to be out with them. My life is good!
First published: March 4, 2016
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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.