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It’s About Moments and Milestones — Part II

This is the continuation of It’s About Moments and Milestones, where Jill discusses her personal journey with lung cancer. Read part one here.

My journey has been an example of that balance. My care team has always known that my preferences in treatment had to be guided by the impact it would have on my family and at times that has meant not following the standard of care or the traditional approach.

My treatment journey

When I was first diagnosed 9 years ago, I was stage I. The only reason I was stage I was because of my horrible family history I manipulated my way into having periodic scans! The only mutations that were tested for in lung cancer at the time were KRAS and EGFR, and my cancer was EGFR positive. At the time the targeted therapy Tarceva looked promising for EGFR positive patients and there was some excitement around using it for adjuvant therapy post-op in stage I surgical patients. I needed to be able to look my kids in the eyes and know I did everything in my power…so I took Tarceva as adjuvant therapy. And it worked…until I stopped taking it.

I had a second surgery 2-1/2 years after the first to remove another EGFR positive lung cancer, but unfortunately, my follow up scan after that surgery revealed new tumor growth. I was lucky the cancer was contained to my chest, but there’s only a finite amount of lung one can lose so another surgery wasn’t an option. Tarceva, was still the only systemic option for EGFR positive lung cancer 5-1/2 years ago, and it wasn’t even approved for first-line therapy in patients with advanced disease. There wasn’t much research on using SBRT for intrapulmonary metastasis, but the risks were low so my care team and I decided it was a better option for me than going back on Tarceva. I’ve been fortunate that it has worked for me for the past 5 years. And just knowing I have options for systemic therapy in the future has been mentally life-changing for me.

Stolen and treasured milestones

My dad died at 41 years old just 3 months after he was diagnosed with lung cancer, and my mom died at 54 years old just 6 months after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. I can’t help but wonder (and wish) how different things would be if their cancer was caught earlier or if there had been new practice-changing developments and treatments available to them? Maybe my dad would have lived just a few more weeks to see me graduate 8th grade, or even long enough to see me graduate high school. And maybe my mom could have lived six more months and been there for the birth of my daughter, or even long enough to meet all of her grandchildren.

These are the treasured milestones that were stolen from my parents – and from me. And while early detection didn’t result in a cure for me…because I was screened and because of increased awareness, a better understanding of the biology of lung cancer, advancements in research, and in large part, my team taking the science and applying it to me personally, in the context of my life — last year I saw my 4th, and last, child graduate 8th grade, and this May I will see my oldest graduate college. I have had the chance to watch my kids grow up, which is something my dad didn’t live to do.

Forging ahead united

There were five abstracts presented at WCLC that are exciting, promising and will be practice-changing for clinicians. But for us, patients and our families; living to see and share the important moments and milestones with our families are LIFE-changing! We MUST keep forging ahead, so others have the chance to live longer and watch their children grow up.

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.