Advocate Spotlight: Sandy
LungCancer.net shares the stories and experiences of people living with lung cancer. We are highlighting the story of our advocate Sandy whose lung cancer diagnosis took many months to confirm. Since her diagnosis, Sandy is dedicated to supporting others with lung cancer and living her life to the fullest with her beloved family.
This is Sandy's story...
Sandy's diagnosis story
I am Sandy Spears. In November 2015 my life would forever be changed. After becoming short of breath while running I took a trip to the ER and an x-ray revealed a large mass in my lower left lung. The doctor said it appeared to be lung cancer.
I then had a needle biopsy which came back undiagnosable. I was sent to a different facility where a bronchoscope was done, again it came back undiagnosable.
I became very sick after the bronchoscope and ended up in ICU on life support in March 2016. I was suffering from acute kidney failure, delirium, septic shock among other things. While in the hospital there was a more invasive bronchoscope done where it finally was revealed to be NSCLC adenocarcinoma.
From surgery to chemotherapy to radiation to immunotherapy
Now being put on 24/7 oxygen I had to go through pulmonary rehab to build my lungs to undergo surgery. In May 2016, more than six months after my initial diagnosis, I had a lower left lobectomy.
But, I was not out of the woods yet. I scheduled to begin aggressive chemotherapy treatment in August and new symptoms surfaced. With alarming regularity, I was tripping, falling, suffering from headaches, and was unable to walk without veering off to the right. I had to now use a walker. I soon learned that I had a four-centimeter tumor on my brain.
In August of 2016, I had a right frontal craniotomy and brain radiation and was No Evidence of Disease (NED) for six months. Test results then revealed a tumor in the abdominal peritoneal. Because I have elevated PDL1 it made me a good candidate for immunotherapy treatment. I started Keytruda holding things at bay for nearly a year. Once there was progression I started a clinical trial in combination with Opdivo. Progression again kicked me out of the clinical trial. I then underwent omentectomy because it was now 5 cm and had attached to the colon I had 15 rounds of subsequent radiation. I had my last radiation on Black Friday 2018.
Live life to the fullest
I married in 1979 and have 3 kids and 7 grandkids. Family is so important to me. I spend every minute I can making memories with them, which includes forgetting my age and being a kid with the kids. I really love doing things spur of the moment, like, let’s spend the weekend in the mountains. I view life so differently now. Cancer has really brought out the best in me. Little things don’t bother me like they once did. Now it’s live life to the fullest and spoil the grands.
I love connecting with other survivors and sharing stories. I have found that reaching out to others helps me and hopefully, I can give hope to others as well.
Love singing in the car
I enjoy singing in the car. Maybe everyone doesn’t enjoy hearing, but that’s ok. They always tell me “nana you have the words wrong”. I think the artist has them wrong. I always make up my own words sounds good to me.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?