LUNG FORCE Heroes
In May of 2007, I was diagnosed with stage 3A lung cancer. I was not a smoker, so we looked for other reasons I would have lung cancer. We had our home tested for radon, and the results were more than 6 times the level of 4 picocuries/liter of air, the level recommend for action by the EPA.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I had a PET scan, which determined that the cancer had not spread, so in June I had my right lung removed. Because by that time, it had spread to one lymph node, it was decided that the safest bet was to do five weeks of radiation, followed by four months of chemotherapy. I was cancer free for six years, when I started to experience symptoms of dementia.
An MRI revealed a large tumor (likely lung cancer) in the front of my brain, and a smaller tumor in the back. I had traditional brain surgery to remove the large tumor, and a month later, gamma knife surgery, a radiation procedure, to remove the smaller tumor. I had periodic MRIs and in December of 2014, I had 6 more small tumors removed with the gamma knife procedure again.
I sought a second opinion from another oncologist, as mine had retired. He sent my tumor in to a lab for analysis, and called me to let me know I had the ALK mutation, which meant I was a candidate for a chemo pill that was only FDA approved a year before. It crosses the blood brain barrier, and keeps cancer cells from reproducing. All this, without most of the nasty side effects of traditional chemotherapy. I have now been taking Ceritinib for almost a year, and feel better than I have in years. A recent CT scan showed no signs of cancer, but I will have a follow-up MRI in March to check my brain. I have lost 30 pounds and am no longer taking blood pressure medication.
This is one success story, and I am so fortunate it is mine. I wish the many friends I have lost, could have had the same outcome. While I am healthy, it is my passion to do what I can to raise awareness of the dangers of radon (the second leading cause of lung cancer), and raise awareness of lung cancer and help to raise funds for more lung cancer research. So many new things are being discovered regarding lung cancer, but sadly, there needs to be more funding and more awareness.
First published: February 10, 2016
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