Battling Lung Cancer: Side Effects and Hope
In 2014 when I was diagnosed, I remember the look on my children’s faces when I told them I had lung cancer.
I remember the fear in my mom’s eyes. She was scared she would have to bury another child. My poor husband looked so worried and scared.
I know he was thinking that he was going to be widowed at a young age. But most importantly, I remember telling myself, “I’m going to fight to stay alive. I’m not giving up.” So for over eight years, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.
Empowered advocacy and unbreakable confidence
From day one, I started advocating, and it felt so good to fight back against lung cancer by advocating and bringing awareness. It gave me a sense of hope and strength not to give up because my family needed me. I was so full of confidence, and I felt like I was on top of the world, that lung cancer had nothing on me.
I remember going to my three-month appointments with so much pizzazz and so much confidence that I felt untouchable. I walked around the University of Chicago Medical Center like I owned the place.
No matter what the results were, it was not going to bring me down. I always went to my three-month appointments so happy and filled with positive energy.
I was always smiling, talkative and energetic. This lasted for years, and I made a promise not to break it.
But it all started to change last year (2022) when they switched my treatment to a new targeted therapy. You see, for seven years, I rarely had any side effects with my former treatment Zycadia. Yes, I had a couple of side effects but nothing that I couldn’t handle. I was living large.
Navigating treatment challenges
In February of 2022, I was told my brain mets grew a bit, and that’s when I had to switch to Alecensa. Now I heard great things about Alecensa and heard the horrible side effects.
But I was so confident that I wouldn’t get bad side effects. Boy, was I wrong. It was one side effect after another, and my drive to fight started going downhill.
Those side effects were brutal, and my mental status started taking a toll. I wasn’t happy anymore; I was always so sad, depressed, and crying a lot. I wasn’t able to do the things I used to.
The worse part was gaining weight and being unable to work out because of the muscle aches. I told my oncologist, “This isn’t living, and I can’t do this anymore.” I found myself saying over and over again that I wanted out and that I didn’t want to live like this anymore.
The only thing that would help me was my grandchildren. I did want to see them grow up, and I wanted them to remember me. But it was so hard for me to continue the fight, and I was so ready to give up and stop treatment.
My oncologist and I decided to try another treatment: Alunbrig. The side effects weren’t so bad compared to Alecensa. So I gave it a shot, but nope, I had to stop because it raised my blood pressure, and I already have high blood pressure.
So after being on break from Alecensa for a month, I started taking Alecensa again. To my surprise, those side effects I had are not gone, and I feel like I’m back to myself again.
Paving the way forward
Looking back, I realize that I went through an awful storm but didn’t quit. I wanted to, but I still had that drive in me, and now my grandchildren need me, and I have to continue the fight for them.
Listen to your body, be aware of your mental state, and let your oncologist know what's happening. There are ways to help us get through these side effects. I know that now.
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