Ripping the Rug out From Under Me
Yep, that's the best description of how it felt to get a stage IV non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis in January 2019, getting the rug ripped out from under me. At the time, I was working at a job I loved but my husband and I wanted to move south for warmer weather. While at work lifting something, I felt and heard a popping sound and felt pain in right rib area. Convinced I cracked a rib, I went to get an x-ray. That's where it started. Their x-ray showed opacification and suggested I contact my primary doctor who ordered a CT scan of the chest. In my experience, the only time my primary doctor has personally called me himself was to give me bad news (thyroid cancer in 2009, skin cancer in 2016). This time he said he wanted me to have a bronchoscopy to test what he thought was a mass, plus have a brain MRI and PET scan.
Diagnosed with metastasis
On January 28th, I received THE phone call.... diagnosis of stage IV NSCLC, with mets to chest lymph nodes and 9 spots on my brain. Within weeks I had 3 stereotactic radiation treatments to the brain. Luckily since then, they have not returned. However, because of the side effects of the radiation, I could no longer keep working.
I feel extremely lucky
Here's where I feel extremely lucky: testing confirmed I had no mutations, but >90% PDL-1. This made me an excellent candidate for Keytruda. Over the last year, my tumors have shrunk in size by 50-65%, again, I'm very fortunate. I continue with Keytruda infusions every 3 weeks.
There IS a silver lining to all of this. In late March 2019, we moved from snowy upstate NY to sunny upstate SC. I am now on permanent disability, BUT I can spend more time with my husband and in between infusions and doctor appointments we can travel in our RV. My diagnosis gave me clarity that's so hard to describe, mostly revealing what's really important in life. What was important to me before my diagnosis and what is important to me now is vastly different. I want to be around long enough to fulfill my purpose on this earth (whatever that may be), to see my daughter, son and step-son get married and have kids, travel just a bit more, etc. I wouldn't have been able to cope without the loving support from my amazing husband.
Because each cancer diagnosis is different, we don't know how long we have left, but I am thankful for the time I have now.
Want to share some of your own story?
Have you taken our In America Survey yet?