In the summer of 2015, I was two years into my new career as a city letter carrier on walking routes, walking approximately 40 miles per week at work. I had discovered the love of running. I was a member of a local runner’s club, running a 5k ,at least 1-2 times a week after a full day of work. Despite occasional shortness of breath and a persistent cough, I was at the top of my physical game. That year my boyfriend and I realized we were ready to take our relationship to the next level. We spoke of getting engaged. We started renovations to change the house where we were living into our future home. We were ready to be married and grow old together.
Instead of planning a wedding and choosing new house paint colors we were planning our days around doctors appointments and tests and then wrapping our brains around an inoperable, incurable, terminal diagnosis of late stage, stage 4, non small cell Lung Cancer. At the time of my diagnosis the cancer had already spread throughout both my lungs and to my spine. How could this be? I was active, athletic and otherwise healthy. At 44 with a new career and evolving relationship, I had my whole life ahead of me.
After a Lung Cancer patient shared his story and advice with me, I started living by my new, No Missed Opportunities, motto. Lung Cancer advocacy has given me the opportunity for many new experiences. I was excited about the chance to work with the American Lung Association on a video about Lung Cancer tumor testing. I participated in the 2017 Super Bowl Challenge through the Chris Draft Family Foundation, as a Cleveland Browns fan living in Colorado and I earned a trip to Houston, TX for the Taste of the NFL during Super Bowl Weekend. This is an annual fundraiser for Lung Cancer Awareness Month and beyond. The proceeds of my fundraiser were donated to Team Draft and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). I went to Washington, D.C. for the first time to attend a Lungevity Hope Summit. I returned to Washington with Lung Cancer Alliance to speak with members of congress to ask for their support for the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018.
I was given a terminal diagnosis and dismal prognosis but then I was given a glimmer of hope for my future. There were six lung cancer drugs FDA approved in 2015, the year I was diagnosed. Five of those were approved after my August diagnosis. Two of those drugs have been part of my own Lung Cancer treatment program. Early on I asked a doctor, how long would they be able to manage my lung cancer. He said they couldn’t give me a time frame because of new treatments, different drugs and clinical trials. New research developments and treatments are so important for my quality of life.
My Lung Cancer treatments have been EGFR targeted therapies and radiation to my right lung and spine. For a short period of time I was No Evidence of Disease. But Lung Cancer is tricky and found ways to resist my Lung Cancer treatments. Even with cancer progression, my Lung Cancer has remained somewhat stable and has been managed like a chronic disease.
In 2017 I participated in Super Bowl Challenge through the Chris Draft Family Foundation, as a Cleveland Browns fan living in Colorado. This is a fundraiser for Lung Cancer Awareness Month and beyond. The proceeds benefited Team Draft and the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC).
Three years after my diagnosis, I continue to adjust to my new normal. Adjusting to lower energy levels is more of a mental than physical challenge for me. I have days with pain and discomfort, but I was able to stay at work, carrying mail, until a reason unrelated to lung cancer prevented me from doing so. Life must go on. But instead of just living life day to day, I now appreciate every moment of it.
With good doctors, the latest treatments, and my positive attitude, I continue to live an active life with lung cancer. I’m surviving incurable, terminal Lung Cancer. August 2018 was my three year CANCERversary.
Visit Lisa’s Blog, Peace Lungs & Happiness to learn more – www.peacelungshappiness.org