Recently, I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. This news has stunned my husband, our children, family, friends, our co-workers and me. Although most of you know the beginning of my story not everyone does, so here goes…
In October, Nathan left home to work on an organic farm in Ibarra, Ecuador. On December 1st, Wynn, Nina and I left to visit him on the farm, pick him up, and then we all went to see Machu Picchu in Peru. All of that happened and it was an amazing family trip. We walked and hiked in both countries, including Huayna Picchu at ~10,000 ft. I felt healthy and strong. Wynn and I returned home to get back to work and Nathan and Nina returned to the farm to work a few more days.
A day or so after returning home, Wynn took me to the ER at the hospital where I work and he is on staff, for abdominal pain and mild nausea. I thought I had a stomach bug from South America, or more likely, a gallstone. The good news was that the abdominal ultrasound and CT found a normal gall bladder, but the bad news was they found metastatic lesions in my lung, liver, and ribs. At the time, it was not known where the primary cancer was, but we knew that it had already spread to other organs.
Since that day, I’ve had an extensive work-up and we now know that I have non-small cell adenocarcinoma of the lung with metastatic disease to my liver and many of my bones. (Reading the bone scan report is really depressing.)
One promising piece of information we learned early on is about tumor mutations and targeted therapies. Some patients with adenocarcinomas have particular mutations which, if present, can be treated with a pill…an oral medication…no IV chemotherapies…no hair loss…no nausea. But I needed additional tests to know if my tumor had a favorable mutation before I could start the medication. More tests…more waiting.
A word about being the sick person: It is extremely difficult to be THAT person. I watch the people close to me cry. I’ve held my husband and my children as they wept for me. I wish I wasn’t the person causing all this sadness.