How I Decided to Hold Out for the Best Lung Cancer Treatment
#Determined #Maintain #Lung #Most cancers #Remedy
By Leah Phillips, as instructed to Janie McQueen
I used to be identified with lung most cancers in December 2019. I by no means even tried a cigarette. I didn’t develop up round secondhand smoke. However at first, earlier than I had biomarker testing, docs instructed me they hoped I’d be alive at Christmas the next 12 months.
In September 2019, it began with a cough that was persistent and didn’t go away. Ultimately I used to be misdiagnosed with pneumonia. Then I went in for one more CT scan and it confirmed lytic lesions — most cancers spots — in my backbone. A bone biopsy confirmed they’d unfold from my lung to my backbone and pelvis.
The oncologist identified me with stage IV lung most cancers and was prepared to start out me on chemo and immunotherapy. In the meantime, my husband related with Dr. Leora Horn at Vanderbilt College Medical Heart by e-mail over Christmas break. She mentioned, “Completely, don’t let her put one drug in her physique.” She wished me to do biomarker testing, and if I had been to start out chemo or immunotherapy, it might trigger a tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TKI) drug remedy I’d strive as an alternative to not work.
The Turning Level: Biomarker Testing
The important thing turning level for us – my husband has been my associate each step of the way in which – was getting biomarker testing. At massive hospitals, that’s the very first thing they do. However many smaller hospitals, like these close to us, aren’t analysis pushed. You should get a second opinion and biomarker testing. It’s your life.
So mine got here again exhibiting a genetic mutation known as an EGFR exon 19 deletion. What breaks that gene and permits lung most cancers to develop? Radon publicity.
Radon is an odorless, tasteless gasoline emitted by limestone. Sure areas of the nation, like Colorado and Tennessee, have plenty of limestone within the floor. It’s emitted each day, however diluted within the air a lot that it’s not a hazard.
However there will be excessive radon publicity and radon poisoning emitted by the limestone that homes or buildings sit on. It may get trapped within the buildings, so that you breathe it in. It takes 5 to 25 years for the radon to interrupt the gene.
The EPA measures radon by pCi, aka picocurie or “pico” for brief. It’s the speed of radon’s radioactive decay. A degree 4 or beneath is deemed OK. But when, for instance, you have got a pico studying of 20 in your house, it’s the equal of smoking 40 cigarettes a day. And although that pico degree is excessive, it’s not even tremendous excessive.
I grew up in Kentucky, the place radon is prevalent. It’s ever altering. You actually should have radon examined each 2 to three years. In case your radon degree comes again excessive, you possibly can decide to have it mitigated. This implies you possibly can have a fan positioned in your attic. Then a pipe sucks the radon out of your home and expels it, however retains a continuing circulation.
I might attempt to hint again the place I used to be uncovered to radon, however my vitality is healthier spent transferring ahead with my remedy.
Focused Remedy a Success
Focused remedy is a sort of most cancers remedy. It zeroes in on proteins that direct the division, progress, and unfold of most cancers cells. My physician at Vanderbilt prescribed Tagrisso (osimertinib mesylate), an accepted focused remedy for folks with EGFR exon lung most cancers.
The way in which it really works is, that gene is damaged, however focused remedy methods your physique into considering it’s nonetheless intact. Typically the most cancers catches on that it’s not the actual deal and mutates.
I began on Tagrisso in December 2019. By December 2020, the first tumor had shrunk by 70% and all my bone mets — brief for metastases, or most cancers cells which have unfold to the bones — had healed.
We made the choice to be aggressive and proceed with eight excessive powered SBRT, aka stereotactic physique radiation remedy. This remedy makes use of tremendous targeted, robust radiation doses that assault most cancers cells however aren’t as dangerous to wholesome tissue. In idea, this killed any remaining most cancers cells that had been current in my main tumor. I’ve remained on Tagrisso and haven’t had any development.
My situation has remained secure, with no most cancers progress.
They are saying focused therapies like Tagrisso will be efficient for two to three years earlier than it stops working. Effectively, it’s been virtually 3 years and it’s nonetheless working. Tagrisso is a brand new drug — it was accepted in 2018 — so actually the jury remains to be out on how lengthy it will possibly final. I don’t assume the projections have in mind the general well being of the individual, both. I’m very match and energetic, a busy mom of three, solely 43 years previous on the time of prognosis and presently 46.
The Takeaway, So Far
I believe a significant plus for us on this journey has been that we’re educated folks. We all know to not simply belief what one physician says. We all know how one can be our personal advocates. I used to be working about 20 miles per week, and caring for teenagers ages 8, 12, and 13, once I was identified. I used to be like, “I can’t be finished right here.” I wasn’t prepared to take this “two years to reside” sentence. We rapidly grew to become our personal advocates as a result of we needed to be.
Lung most cancers is a really lonely most cancers. Most individuals identified with it are older and have smoked. The overall notion is, “You smoked. You probably did this to your self.” Effectively, for one, I don’t look sick. It’s an enormous stigma you don’t deserve. No different most cancers appears as isolating. For instance, folks empathize with you extra you probably have a situation like melanoma.
For these of us who’re youthful – we make up 20% of lung most cancers diagnoses – we’re rolled in with everybody else. It appears folks don’t need to commit vitality to analysis and funding as a lot as different varieties of most cancers. This can be a laborious most cancers to have.
However we forge forward. We drive 3 hours each 3 months from Louisville to see these specialists. I keep a ardour for elevating consciousness that anybody can get lung most cancers and for sharing what has labored for me.