jen-arensdorf_matt-with-daughterOur journey with lung cancer began in March 2016. I had just returned to work after having our beautiful baby girl. My husband Matt and I were finally starting to get the hang of this parenting thing when an appointment to get his vision checked changed our lives forever.

Matt had been noticing changes in his peripheral vision for a few weeks so he decided to have his eyes checked. The optometrist found nothing wrong with his eyes and referred him to a neuro-ophthalmologist who had him get a brain MRI. The results of the MRI were devastating. Matt had 30+ tumors throughout his brain. One of which, was sitting right on his pituitary gland pressing on his optic nerve, hence the changes in his vision.

In complete terror and shock we were sent back to our primary care physician. We were told the tumors in Matt’s brain looked metastatic and they did not believe that his brain was the primary site of the cancer. Matt has always had mild asthma and recently had been having increased shortness of breath. His primary care physician had a chest x-ray ordered that same day which revealed a large mass on his left lung.

Could it possible that my husband, a 32-year-old non-smoker has advanced stage lung cancer? We spent the next 10 days in and out of the hospital, undergoing MRIs, CT scans, a bronchoscopy, and SRS radiation prep. The biopsy came back and confirmed adenocarcinoma. From the moment we got the results of that first brain MRI I knew the diagnosis was going to be bad, but now it was absolute, a fact, Matt had Stage IV Lung Cancer.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over the next several days my mind was flooded with unanswered questions. What are the treatment options? What is the survival rate? Why did this happen? Will my daughter grow up without her daddy? Luckily, part of the protocol at our hospital is to test for gene mutations in all biopsies. On March 30th it felt like we won the lottery, the cancer lottery that is. Matt was scheduled to begin SRS radiation to the tumor on his pituitary gland and 3 other of the largest tumors. The radiation oncologist called us and asked that we come out to the hospital early to consult with one of the thoracic oncologists because Matt was ALK+.

We didn’t know exactly what this meant but the radiation oncologist told us it was good news, which was music to our ears. After speaking with the oncologist we learned that, thanks to this mutation, Matt would have several treatment options, treatments with manageable side effects, and most importantly time, time with our daughter, time with each other, time to live the life he deserves. When the ominous question of length of time came up Matt’s oncologist said this, “with all the advances in new treatments the story for ALK+ patients is still being written”. We left the hospital that day with a feeling of hope. Hope that we can and will write the new story of what a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis looks like.

Our daughter Grace is turning one next month. She is thriving; bringing joy, laughter and love to every aspect of our lives. The last 8 months have had their ups and downs but we are grateful for each and every day. I said it on the day we got married; Matt embodies the person that one day I hope to become. Throughout this journey, he has shown unwavering strength, courage and love. He like so many other survivors is an inspiration. He is our rock, our strength and our hope and we’re fighting with him every step of the way.

This journey is not easy. I have cried every day since March 30th but I have learned so much about the life I want for my husband, my daughter and me and I am determined that we live it. Thanks to our faith in God, love for each other and the medical advances that are being made every day our story is yet to be written.