Awareness • Early Detection • Treatment • Research • Survivorship

Kathi Roberts– Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Let’s start this week off on an upbeat note! And you can’t get more upbeat than our wonderful lung cancer survivor and Free to Breathe Charlotte committee member, Kathi Roberts.

Let me begin by saying I have had a very wonderful life. By 2006 my husband and I had raised our four children and they had successfully begun their adult lives. I had a job I simply loved – helping new teachers begin their careers in the classroom. I’m still married to a wonderful man that was and still is my best friend. We had just moved into a house for grown-ups- you know, master down, upstairs for company, all the bells and whistle that you would want. I am also a rule-follower in some things, especially when it comes to my health. Always ate healthy. Exercised to some degree. Went to every checkup and did every test one does as we age- and that list does get longer doesn’t it?

May 2006 changed my life drastically and forever: a bolt-from-the-blue diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer, with bone and liver involvement, discovered when I fractured my spine. Me, a nonsmoker! If you are not familiar with cancer staging, stage IV is the absolute end of the line- cancer has spread from the original tumor- the doctor in fact used the term “peppered” when we asked how much bone involvement there was.
We all know that we are going to die someday, but I suddenly had a very definitive, in-your- face timeline that was absolutely terrifying.

So we stepped into the storm of tests and decisions and treatment; it was overwhelming. The first thing they tried to decide was whether to biopsy the lung first or the liver – both risky procedures, but necessary to decide the course of treatment. After a lot of discussion they decided to do an ultrasound instead and look at the liver. Remarkably, the good news came; the liver did not have tumors but cysts!

The newest treatment protocol at that time was a triple threat chemo: Avastin, Carboplatin and Taxol. Whew! Three weeks on, one week off for 3 months. Also Zometa every month for the bone mets. After that I started Tarceva and have since switched to Xegeva for my bones. I added an exercise program through Strides for Strength, designed for cancer patients, and holistic treatmenst and acupuncture as well.

So fast-forward six years. God has given me six more years, and I am thankful for every day. Is my life perfect now? Yes and no – I am not in remission; I have some minor and some major issues to deal with. I am still apprehensive with every scan or test, hoping for the word stable, knowing that someday that will change.

But my life is perfect in another way. I have discovered a small community of survivors who are all passionate about changing the perceptions of lung cancer. We are appalled at how little is known about it and we work fervently to talk about “the elephant in the room.” The Free to Breathe team has been such a welcome organization to come into our lives; we are all thankful for that. We are planning our second run in Charlotte and are eager to do even more in the coming years as we raise interest and awareness in both detection and treatment for lung cancer.

– Kathi Roberts