It’s been a crazy journey, but it could always be worse. My story began in 2019 when I started having a nagging-little cough toward the end of the year. I approached my primary doctor and, at first, we thought it was probably some seasonal allergies. Then, I got busy with the holidays in 2019, and COVID came around in March of 2020. I didn’t want to be exposed by having to go to doctors’ offices, so I put off going to see anyone.
April came around, and I said, “I have to go to the doctor now.” The cough was driving me nuts. So then, my doctor thought I had GERD, so I went from allergy medicine to stomach medication for reflux. Well, that didn’t work.
In July, I was starting to feel pressure on my chest. The cough was getting worse. Needless to say, I went to the hospital, where they did an x-ray and a CT scan and found the tumor. I started with a pulmonologist on August 4, 2020. That’s when it pointed in every direction that this cough was not an allergy or GERD; it was cancer taking over.
I asked the difficult question, “What are my chances?” My doctor said I likely only had nine months if the treatment didn’t work. My world crumbled. But then, after I took a breath in, I looked at him and said, “I’m not going down.” I’m a very determined individual. I told him, ”This is not going to beat me, I guarantee you.” I became angry at that point. Why me? I have a daughter and a son, and all I could think about was them and my family. I knew this was not going to beat me.
Not long after my diagnosis, I got COVID. The fortunate part is that I didn’t have any symptoms, but it pushed my treatment far into October and November. So I started treatment at the end of 2020. I was diagnosed with stage III B inoperable lung cancer. My oncologist introduced me to the Pacific trial. He scrambled to see if I qualified for that trial, which I did, even though I didn’t have the biomarker. I did SBRT radiation and traditional radiation along with chemotherapy for 2 months, and then the last leg was a whole year of immunotherapy, which I concluded on December 8, 2021. On February 22, 2022, my scans finally came back. NED. That is a wonderful date because my favorite number is 22; it’s my number. So when that scan came back on February 22, 2022, it couldn’t be more of a perfect thing.
While in treatment, LiveLung introduced me to Wind River Cancer Wellness Retreats because I needed to improve my mental health and feel that I could somehow help others through my journey. That’s how my journey to heal and give back began. I wasn’t on a journey to obtain more information, I was on a journey to find a group of people that would support me and in return, I would be able to pay it forward and give hope to others. That is exactly what I found with Wind River. Through them, I have also engaged with other groups through which I could build more relationships. I was invited to the Lung Cancer Initiative Summit in Raleigh by Wind River, which I found to be excellent. I learned so much and met so many great people. I am so thankful for attending because I am now also looking to volunteer and engage in other ways with LCI. As a result, I will now participate in another LCI-supported retreat and I very much look forward to the Triangle LUNGe Forward 5k, being part of the LCI family and continuing this journey as a lung cancer survivor.