Sonia’s Story

My journey began in 2019 when a persistent cough crept into my life. At first, my primary doctor dismissed it as seasonal allergies, but as the months passed, the cough intensified. The holiday season came and went, and then COVID-19 arrived in March 2020. Fearful of exposure, I hesitated to visit doctors’ offices.

By April 2020, I couldn’t ignore the cough any longer. My doctor suspected GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), so I transitioned from allergy medication to antacids. But relief remained elusive. The pressure on my chest intensified, and the cough persisted. Frustrated, I finally sought help at the hospital, where an x-ray and CT scan revealed a tumor. On August 4, 2020, I met with a pulmonologist, and the grim reality set in: this was no allergy or GERD—it was lung cancer and it had spread to other parts of my chest.

The difficult question hung in the air: “What are my chances?” My doctor’s answer was stark—I likely had only nine to twelve months if treatment failed. My world shattered, but then resolve surged within me. “I’m not going down,” I declared. I BELIEVED I COULD BEAT THIS MONSTER and faced cancer head-on, fueled by determination. Why me? Thoughts of my daughter, son, and family propelled me forward. This disease would not defeat me.

Amidst my diagnosis, COVID-19 struck, yet I remained asymptomatic. Treatment was delayed until October and November, but I persisted. Diagnosed with stage III B inoperable lung cancer, I entered the Pacific Trial lead by Levine Cancer Institute, even without the biomarker. SBRT radiation, traditional radiation, and chemotherapy became my allies. Each day, I fought, fueled by the promise: “I believed that this cancer will not beat me.” On December 8, 2021 I concluded my initial treatment plan.

On February 22, 2022, my scans brought the most welcome news: NED (No Evidence of Disease). The significance of this date isn’t lost on me—it aligns perfectly with my favorite number, 22. It felt like the universe was sending a reassuring message. The second part of my treatment began and it included immunotherapy for 1 year with CT scans every 3 months.

During my treatment, I discovered Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreats through LiveLung. My focus shifted from seeking information to finding a supportive community. I wanted to heal and give back. Wind River became that haven—a place where survivors, families, and healthcare practitioners come together. Through their programs, I connected with other groups, such a 24 Foundation and LCI expanding my network of relationships. I learned, connected, and felt inspired. I became eager to volunteer and engage further.

After my initial cancer diagnosis and the subsequent declaration of No Evidence of Disease (NED) on February 22, 2022, I completed my immunotherapy treatment. However, on October 4, 2022, devastating news arrived: the lung cancer had metastasized to my abdomen. The weight of this recurrence crushed me. How could this happen again? But my team of dedicated oncologists sprang into action, swiftly performing surgery to remove a tumor attached to my pancreas. The biopsy results brought a glimmer of hope: I had a ROS1-positive mutation.

The following months were grueling. The new targeted treatment, Rozlytrek, initially incapacitated me with its side effects. The unbearable dose, though effective, left me drained. Yet, my doctors adjusted the treatment, prioritizing my quality of life. Slowly, I regained strength and renewed my belief that I could conquer this relentless monster once more.

Regular scans every three months revealed remarkable progress. It has been a challenging journey, but I’ve clung to hope. I believed, and against all odds, I triumphed. As of February 15, 2023, I stand declared NED once again. Yes, I’ll remain on treatment for life, but that’s alright. This journey—this thing we call life—wouldn’t persist without unwavering belief. To all who also believed in me, thank you!

I hope my resilience and determination shines through and I will keep fighting, and I hope my journey inspires others.