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Nancy H

I was an extremely active, healthy 62 year old in April of 2012. I was skiing in Colorado and had, what I thought, was altitude sickness. It wasn't. When I returned to our winter home in Florida, I was told that it was probably stress but I was given a prescription for an x-ray which I got in a few days, because I wasn't concerned. I should have been because it definitely wasn't stress!

An 8mm tumor that had spread to most of my lymph nodes in my chest area. I was given a 30% chance of surviving 3 years. I was given the heaviest doses of chemo and radiation, because I was healthy and could take it. True, but the next scan revealed it was back. More chemo. Again, 4 months, another scan and it was back. I said, no more!

Thankfully, my Oncologist pleaded with me to let her contact New England hospitals to see if they had any trials that might fit my type of cancer, non-small cell, squamous lung cancer, as UVM Medical Center, did not. There was one that looked like I might be able to get into. A month later, after continuous testing, I was able to enter the trial for an immunotherapy drug. By this time, it had spread to my other lung. Only 11% of the 1,000 plus applicants fit the protocol. I was one of them. The date, September 26, 2014. For a little over two years, I drove 217 miles, one way, for treatment and then, 217 miles home; every other week. I could drive it with my eyes closed!

April 16, 2016 will be the 4th year anniversary of my diagnosis. I'm doing fantastic! I am scheduled in February for my first CT Scan since I was taken off the now-approved drug, Keytruda. I'm nervous, but confident, that the drug did its job.

This journey has been the most positive experience I've ever had in my life! I've met wonderful people, learned so much and am still learning and I understand I have been an inspiration for many. I feel so Blessed! I'm on the American Lung Association Executive Board in Vermont, am on the Lung Force Committee, belong to Hospice, Kindred Connections, which is an organization that lets me speak to other lung cancer patients in Vermont to give them encouragement on their paths through life. Would I have done all of these things if I had not contracted cancer? Maybe, maybe not, but they wouldn't have been as meaningful to me and as satisfying as they are. The fact that my journey with cancer inspires in others the will to fight this dreaded disease helps me to fight to the end!

First published: February 8, 2016

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