Joan is a lung cancer warrior. She is only alive today because of participation in clinical trial research. Joan is an Asian female, never smoker, under age 60, Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) patient who has been fighting the good fight for almost three years. She thought she only had eight months based on the averages, but those are outdated statistics in today’s precision medicine world. She is living an abridged life but living it with joy.
Joan is alive today because clinical trials determined that 60% of East Asian females who have never smoked, and who are under the age of 60, have an EGFR mutation driving their cancer, a percentage way higher than the general American population. As a result, a targeted oral therapy was determined to be very effective in keeping Joan alive without enduring traditional chemotherapy. Joan is alive today because clinical trials provided closer monitoring of patient health than the typical standard of care.
A clinical trial that focused on screening brain MRI was surprising because 13 brain mets showed up. Joan was asymptomatic. Consequently, whole brain radiation was utilized and stopped the cancer cold before it did real damage. Joan is alive today because liquid biopsy research helped quickly determine genetic changes in her blood without a tissue biopsy. The new mutations that were discovered helped guide us to a treatment plan that would be more effective for her genetic profile instead of just guessing. Knowing if your genetic profile is EGFR exon19del or exon20 or exon 21L8568R is critically important in picking a therapy that will keep you alive longer. Not all treatments work the same for all EGFR cancer sub-types, so we are thankful for the research.
Joan is alive today because, while every day is a gift and you never know when your time is up, there is hope for continued advances in lung cancer research. She is on Plan J, looking for a 3rd clinical trial, and is continuing to hope that she will beat the long tailend of the survival curve. Join us for November’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month in raising awareness and stressing that (1) anyone can get lung cancer; (2) there is not yet an easy method of early detection of lung cancer; (3) more than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of diagnosis; (4) lung cancer kills more people in America than any other cancer type; (5) lung cancer research is severely underfunded; and (6) consequently, 5-year survival rates are quite dismal compared to other types of cancer. We support the efforts of the Bonnie Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and have raised almost $50,000 to support research, awareness, and patient advocacy. We are not just surviving with lung cancer. We are living an abridged life lung cancer with joy for God. P.S. – Dragons are powerful. In Cantonese Chinese, dragon is pronounced “lung.” So, we think saying we are dragon warriors means we are powerful warriors fighting the good fight against lung cancer.
NOTE: Sadly, Joan lost her battle with lung cancer in August 2017. Her story and fight continues to inspire us!