Hand holding shrinking pill

The Hope of Modern Medicine

Last updated: June 2022

When I was first diagnosed with lung cancer and the doctor was awaiting my report from my additional molecular testing, I was overwhelmed at all the different avenues that my treatment plan could take once we had definitive information. One word stood out to me in all of it and that was “oral tablet”. He mentioned a couple of scenarios that involved an oral chemo. I had hope that I could live my life with cancer and fight it with just a pill that I would take the same time everyday right from my own home.

Didn't realize oral chemo was possible

I had no idea that this was even possible when I first heard the word cancer. I immediately thought hair loss and sickness and a port and no quality of life. I learned rather quickly that I was very wrong. While this is the case for many, I was hopeful that my treatment plan might take a different approach. I had a sudden sense of relief when the doctor called and told me that I had the exact mutation that a new drug just recently approved by the FDA as a first-line therapy would target. He explained positive tolerance experiences and also explained how the medication would help to combat the spreading and mutating of my cancer cells.

I began to research case studies of this medication and read patient experiences and was relieved to learn of so many triumph stories of those on this medication. I swapped over from fear and anxiety to hope. I joined Facebook groups and was able to correspond with people living and thriving with stage IV lung cancer like myself while also on the same medication. I had hope. Instant hope. I felt like a 10-story building lifted off my shoulder. The weight of depression and anxiety was lifted.

32 months later, I still have hope

Today, approximately 32 months later, I still have hope and am on my same first-line therapy, Tagrisso. This medication continues to fight for me. The fear of change is great at every scan, but I am thankful that I have not yet experienced the shift of progression. I don’t say this to brag, but to give hope to others also on this treatment plan. I am thankful for every scan and every lab that passes that I have positive response to this therapy.

In the beginning of my journey, the average median response was 18 months. When I got to that mark, I became extra nervous and really concerned. I have obviously surpassed that number and now AstraZeneca has actually raised the median to 38 months. While this response isn’t the case for everyone on Tagrisso, these stats have offered me some additional hope. Hope to keep fighting. Hope to keep going. These numbers and case study information are available at Tagrisso's website.

Insurance trouble is never ending

At first, I had major difficulty with insurance because the drug had literally been released just a month prior as a first-line therapy, they didn’t have the addendum or the information regarding the new change. So, they declined because at the time it was only approved for second-line and beyond. Learning of a declination of payment for a $15k a month drug was devastating. I finally was at wit’s end. I submitted my own research to the insurance company stating the actual date of the approval for first-line along with a letter from myself and doctor and they finally adjusted it. However, in the meantime, I reached out to AstraZeneca for assistance and they were not only willing to send in documentation, but they also sent me 15 pills for free so that I could go ahead and start my therapy.

I was concerned that I knew about my cancer for about a month and had not yet begun to fight the mutating cells in my body. I felt like a ticking time bomb knowing I had cancer and wasn’t yet taking any medication for it. The drug manufacturer was very kind and so very helpful. They sent me my medication overnight and I was advised to start the very next day. They informed me that if the insurance was delayed even longer to call back and they would supply me with more of my chemo tablets. If you ever find yourself in such a place, I totally recommend reaching out to the manufacturer. Not only can they help, but they also can help provide needed documentation and often co-pay assistance.

No matter what the future holds, I'm thankful

I don’t really know how long I have left on Tagrisso, but I am thankful. I look back over the past almost three years and think about how much time I spent worrying and fretting and none of the things that I have feared thus far have come to pass. I am learning to live each day with a grateful heart and truly understand what a wonderful gift that each day really is. I am also very grateful to research for this superpower drug that is prolonging my life, allowing me to live with quality of life. Intentional living continues every day. Cheers to incredible modern medicine. Let us not ever lose hope of a cure!

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