In May of 2015, I had a seizure and collapsed one morning before taking my young children to school. Within 24 hours, the doctors suspected I had lung cancer. There was a tumor in the upper lobe of my left lung and multiple metastasis in my brain. Two days later I had brain surgery to remove the largest brain tumor, the one that caused the seizure, and the oncologist sent material from the tumor to be genomically tested. Tumor testing showed that I had an EGFR mutation which could be treated with a targeted-therapy drug called Tarceva. The drug worked well for almost 2 years before my cancer progressed and metastasized to a lymph node. Fortunately, a new therapy that targeted both mutations had recently been developed, and I was able to switch to Tagrisso earlier this year.
People frequently think that I am “cured” because I don’t look like I have cancer. The reality is that I have cancer now and I always will. There is no cure for stage IV non-small cell lung cancer, and there is no remission. But I am fortunate enough to receive treatment very close to my home from one of the top lung cancer oncologists in the world. Even though lung cancer is by far the most deadly cancer, lung cancer research does not receive nearly the funding that other cancers do. If my current drug therapy stops working for me, my path forward is not clear. In the meantime, I will work to increase lung cancer awareness, end the stigma associated with lung cancer, and raise money to create treatment options that will likely save my life.