Dan Friedman was 43 in late 2010 when he began to feel a little short of breath while exercising. It was fall, and he enjoyed working out often, at the gym four or five days a week. But the crisper weather had him running outdoors alongside his wife of 20 years. He was enjoying life, enjoying being a husband, and a father of three.
Since Dan appeared so healthy, and is a non-smoker, doctors assumed he had a case of exercise-induced asthma. It was early 2011 when more tests were ordered. Eventually a CT scan showed some abnormalities in his lungs, and most alarming, a large amount of fluid around his heart and lungs.
Dan was told to go to the hospital immediately. And by the end of the week, the first week of May 2011, it seemed the diagnosis was more clear: a surgeon said he believed it was probably lung cancer, and if it was cancer, it was bad. A biopsy was scheduled and within a few days confirmed that it was Non-Small Cell Stage Four Adenocarcinoma of the lungs. Dan, a non-smoker who appeared healthy and lived a healthy lifestyle, had cancer in both lungs, all throughout, and surrounding the lungs and heart.
Meeting with Dr. Ramaswamy Govindan at Siteman Cancer Center, St. Louis, put Dan and his family’s minds at ease. Despite a frightening diagnosis, they offered hope in some newer treatments for late stage lung cancer.
As Dan’s family and friends prayed, his cancer cells were being studied more closely. A gene study of his cells showed that he had the EGFR mutation. This very specific mutation was the answer to some very specific prayers. A drug called Tarceva had recently been approved as a first line treatment for lung cancer patients with this mutation, and this meant Dan’s treatment would be simpler than traditional chemotherapy, and most likely more effective, since the drug targets a mutation within the cancer cell more accurately.
Dan’s cancer receded by more than 90 percent just 5 or so weeks after he began treatment with Tarceva. Dan and his family, his wife, children, are so grateful for this reversal and the health and happy times it has brought. Dan’s treatment has included a pill a day, so he and his family were able to serve on a mission trip to Ecuador, take vacations, visit their son in the Air Force, and live life easily even with a stage four lung cancer diagnosis. They are so thankful doctors at Siteman knew to do this test, to see if Dan had this mutation. And so thankful for the answered prayers that he did.
Dan’s treatment now includes chemotherapy in addition to Tarceva to head off some minor progression, which was expected after a period of time. But a new biopsy was ordered, and a new gene study is being conducted to look for additional clues as to how his cancer has changed. So, additional prayers are being said, and he and his family are hopeful. And thankful….for amazing doctors and staff, researchers, caring friends and family, and a God who is bigger than cancer.