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Couple Celebrates Gift of Life After a Stage IV Lung Cancer Diagnosis — Part II

Part II — The following article was written from an interview with Cindy Hall, whose husband Tommy Hall was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in 2013. After enrolling in an immunotherapy clinical trial, Tommy is now out of treatment and living life to the fullest.

‘We have to be part of something’

When Cindy asked the doctor about Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), as a caretaker, he told her, “Well, if there are things you want to do, if you want to go see the Great Barrier Reef, now is the time to do it. You can either take off and spend time with your husband now or you can wait and take off to care for your husband as the disease progresses.”

Tommy was more accepting of the prognosis than Cindy.

Cindy & Tommy 1

“Tommy said, ‘I have had a great life. I have done things that most other people haven’t.’ But I said, “Timeout. This isn’t who we are. This isn’t how we’re going to deal with this. We have to do something about this. If you’re not going to survive it, then we have to be part of what helps this disease have a different outcome. We need to get to a teaching facility. Someone has to learn from this. We have to be part of something.”

Tommy agreed. “If I can be part of something that helps fight against cancer,” Tommy said, “I’m all in.”

Finding a different outlook in Maryland

Cindy and Tommy packed some of their belongings and “gave everything else away.” Cindy left her career at Sysco and went on FMLA. They left Virginia and moved to Maryland so Tommy could be treated at the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Maryland.

“They had the same diagnosis there, but a different outlook,” said Cindy. Tommy entered his first clinical trial.

At Cancer Center

“They had one small trial going on which was like an anti-inflammatory that they would combine with chemotherapy to see if that helped slow down the progression of the disease,” she said. “It didn’t.”

Meanwhile, Tommy was undergoing chemotherapy and having blood transfusions.

“Although the Eastern Shore was our home and we were near our kids, family and friends for support, there really wasn’t the right cancer treatment there,” Cindy explained. “That’s why we sought out a teaching facility.”

Living life to its fullest

Living their lives to the fullest — even during those difficult times — and enjoying small things were important to Cindy and Tommy.

At Cancer Center

“We tried to make sure that we lived our lives,” she said. “Every day I tried to watch the sunrise because I was grateful that we had that. We traveled and went on a trip with friends to Lake George. I kept him active. We met my sister in New York. We kept living because that was important. But it was tough watching him deteriorate. After his fourth treatment, he was getting super sick and needed blood transfusions. They told us to take a medical holiday.”

Cindy talked with her former supervisor and returned to her old position. Not long after returning to Virginia, Tommy noticed his lymph node was swollen again.

And then…it came back

“I felt it and called the doctor immediately,” said Cindy. “This was on a Friday. We got to the University of Maryland at 7:30 Monday morning. It had come back — with a vengeance.”

Tommy did not want to undergo chemo again. Fortunately, the University of Maryland was participating in an immunotherapy clinical trial for Keytruda.

“They were looking for the PD1 cells,” Cindy said. “Tommy fit the profile. So, we took the bull by the horn, so to speak.”

Read the conclusion of “Couple Celebrates Gift of Life After a Stage IV Lung Cancer Diagnosis” in Part III here. Read Part I here.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.