Community Member Spotlight: Tanya
For Lung Cancer Awareness Month, LungCancer.net sat down with Dr. Tanya Crawford-Williams to talk about her experience living with lung cancer. Tanya's NSCLC diagnosis came as a complete shock, and she has since been dedicated to supporting others living with this cancer. Above all, she wants to remind people that they are never alone.
This is Tanya's story...
Tanya's lung cancer diagnosis
I was first diagnosed on September 2, 2016. I went to my allergy doctor to get medicine for a persistent cough. That same day, he referred me to a local imaging site for a CT scan. Once it was completed, I went home and had dinner with my family.
About an hour later I received a call from my doctor telling me to go to the hospital. It was a Friday night and I was prepared to spend time with my family and watch movies. So, I was a bit puzzled about his request. Begrudgingly, I went with my mother-in-law to the hospital and had a series of additional tests.
After about 4 hours, I was told the news. I had a mass in my lungs which was most likely stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. It was the scariest and most unexpected experience of my life. I was 45 years old with two children, ages 7 and 12.
ALK-positive changed her treatment plans
I was lucky, my physician team discovered that I had an ALK gene within 5 days of my initial diagnosis. This meant that I could take a chemo pill for treatment, rather than traditional chemotherapy using a port.
Over the years, I was on a series of different pills primarily because of the extreme effects on my liver. My lung cancer is currently being treated with a drug called Lorbrena.
Never give up and surround yourself with support
The most important thing I’ve learned is to never give up despite what science says, the internet reports or statistics show! I’ve learned to always surround yourself with positive people and support groups, make sure you continue doing things that make you happy, and remember that in order to heal and beat cancer, you must be willing to run a marathon race.
Also, remember that this is not a disease solely of “smokers”. People from all walks of life, young and old, are susceptible and have been diagnosed. Many have never been “smokers”.
The inspiration to share her story
What inspired me is the knowledge that the universe has given me the gift that many, unfortunately, diagnosed with lung cancer do not get...the gift of 5 years! When I first started my journey, I was told that I would not live to see 50. Well, I turned 50 this past January, and I will celebrate the anniversary of my diagnosis with friends and family on September 2.
I would recommend that others willingly share both the successes and challenges of living with a life-altering diagnosis such as lung cancer. Others need to hear that it is possible to receive a lung cancer diagnosis, and still live your life to the fullest. Every day scientists are creating better and more effective medicines to cure this disease. I'm hopeful and believe one day my oncologist, Dr. Julie Brahmer, will be calling me to say, “Make your appointment for your cancer vaccine today!”
We are stronger together
Family and friends, of course, are my biggest support. When I needed “more”, I looked to support groups specific to lung cancer such as the Hopewell Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
The advice I would give to those newly diagnosed is to breathe, give yourself grace and space to grieve, be positive, and know that all things are possible! And lastly, don’t believe everything that you read on the internet. Statistics don’t always tell the whole story. Believe that YOUR story could possibly be different.
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