Wendi’s Story

On August 22, 2022 I was just loving life. I was 63 years old and my husband, Bill and I had just returned from a 21 day vacation in Italy. I had retired from the state government after 30 years, I was staying busy working in my yard, working out several times a week, and was just very active and felt youthful. A day or so before we arrived home from our trip, I started having a slight tightening in my chest. I just figured it was nothing but after we came home it continued to bother me so I went to my PCP (primary care physician). My lungs were clear. I went back to my PCP again a couple of weeks after that because the tightening was getting worse and I had developed a dry cough. After an EKG, breathing treatment and chest X-ray in the office, I was given prednisone and was told my lungs were fine. In a couple of more weeks I still wasn’t better. I never really felt sick but felt like something just wasn’t right. I contacted my PCP again, was prescribed an antibiotic and told if the antibiotic didn’t make me better to go to the emergency room. So when I still wasn’t better in 2 more weeks I went to the Immediate Care Center and was sent to the radiology office for a CT scan. Within a couple of hours I was told I had Primary Bronchial Carcinoma. I was in total disbelief! I had an appointment with an oncologist by the end of that week and by the first of the following week I had an appointment with a pulmonary specialist, Dr. Hiren Mehta. Everything just started moving so fast! I had a PET scan and found out the cancer had metastasized all over my lungs, to my lymph nodes, my liver, and my bones, in the hip/pelvis area. I was so shocked because I still did not feel sick. After all of this I had a bronchoscopy and found out I was stage IV. However both Dr. Mehta and my oncologist, Dr. Jason Boyd, told me I wasn’t doomed! I really had a hard time believing this because my chest was tightening and my coughing was getting worse. I started chemo and immunotherapy treatments. I also had fluid in my lung and had to have several thoracentesis procedures, then a pleurx catheter put in my chest to drain fluid, my husband had to drain the fluid every few days. I even told my husband that I was not going to do anymore treatments. On my next doctor visit, I had planned to stop everything, but when I went Dr. Boyd told us that they found my mutation. Standard treatment was stopped and I started on a targeted treatment, Xalkori. From December 28, 2022 until February 27, 2023, the tumors had all shrunk tremendously, some not even showing up on the CT scans anymore and most importantly, I feel like a normal person again! In December 2022 I thought I would never be able to travel again. I had to go to my grand daughter’s band concert at school in a wheelchair, I even had to use a walker to get around in my house, but that wheelchair and walker are now in the attic! My husband and I traveled to Italy again in July 2023 and had a great time! All of my family and friends have brought me through this journey, I honestly didn’t realize how many wonderful friends I have until this happened! I have a really wonderful husband, two precious daughters, two fantastic grandchildren and of course my two sweet dogs! My girls were right there with me helping out every step of the way, but my rock has been my husband! Everyday he made me see the positive, he never let me believe that I wasn’t going to get through this! I just can’t put into words what love and strength he has given to me! He still goes to every doctor appointment with me, he’s so precious! My daddy died of this disease when he was just 51 years old. He only lived 1 year after his diagnosis and he was so sick and weak before he died. I realized that his lung cancer was different from mine and he died in 1984. Treatment has come a long way since then, but it still weighed heavy on my mind. I’m so thankful for my wonderful doctors and scientists that find these mutations and develop these wonderful treatments that allow people to go on living their normal lives! Just because you get this terrible diagnosis, as Dr. Mehta said to me, you are not doomed, there is so much hope!