A person standing at a crossroad of many intersections

Switching Treatments and Cancer Progression

When I was diagnosed with lung cancer I had very little knowledge of the subject. I had participated in the Breath Deep Kankakee walk twice but anything to do with lung cancer was beyond me. Over the years I have learned so much that when someone asks “what topic can you speak confidently on for 30 mins without notice?” I always want to say, “Lung Cancer”.

My first treatment

The first treatment that I was given was the TKI Afatinib. I was told to come back in one month for scans to see how it was working. Well, it was not, the tumor was growing! I was quickly switched to chemotherapy, cisplatin/Alimta. I was admitted into the hospital and had my first infusion inpatient. Afatinib would be my first line of treatment and the chemo my second. As mentioned, I did not know much about lung cancer and so I thought that this was normal to switch treatments so quickly. I did not realize that the goal was to be on treatment for the long term.

The chemotherapy was doing the trick and the tumor had shrunk. My oncologist chose to send me to a radiation oncologist and the tumor was zapped. But that didn’t work, and we needed a new plan. The cancer was progressing, and we did not know why. We sent the tumor out for a broader panel and found a resistance mechanism that could be targeted. This is where we decided to have me join a clinical trial.

Then, I joined a clinical trial

I was in the clinical trial for about 11 months before my oncologist found that there was some progression in the lower left lobe of my lung. We opted for surgery to remove the pesky little tumors, but it ended up not working and I was officially out of the clinical trial.

It didn't work, but we didn't give up

I headed back to more appointments with my Chicago oncologist, and it was decided that I would go on my sixth line of treatment which was Cabozantinib and Tarceva. This combination was very rough. I could barely work because I was always so fatigued! I was on this treatment for quite a while until the cancer was found in some lymph nodes in my abdomen. I had a scope down my throat to confirm this and it was on to the seventh line of treatment.

I was fortunate to be at a university hospital in Chicago that had a new clinical trial option for my exact mutation combination. I started that and to this day thank my lucky stars for this clinical trial as it is the reason, I am no evidence of disease today.

I stopped the clinical trial drug but have continued taking Tarceva due to some severe side effects. My oncologist has said that I can go back on the clinical trial drug if I ever progress again.

It's important to understand your treatment options

My next treatment will be my eighth line of treatment. Cancer progression can be scary. It is important to have open lines of communication with your oncologist and also to do your own research on what your next treatment can be.

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