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Judy M.

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  1. Like
    Judy M. reacted to LaurenH for a blog entry, The Long Road Ahead: Garth Atchley (Part 2 of 2)   
    Facing a lung cancer diagnosis changes a person’s perspective about what matters in life and what doesn’t. Being diagnosed with cancer makes you put absolutely everything else to the side, or totally out of mind.  You have the chance to let back in only the things that really matter back into your conscious mind. If you can do that, and spend more time focusing on things that really matter in the present moment, you will have completely changed and improved your mind and your life. I still get caught up in feeling anxious or scared about what might happen in the future and the negative impact it could have on my family, especially my wife and daughters. What’s helped me has been to realize that they are thoughts – they don’t have a physical presence anywhere and if you observe them but don’t chase after them, they go away.
    If I could give advice to someone newly diagnosed, I’d probably want to say a few things.
    1.       Slow down. Information is going to be coming at you really fast and it can be overwhelming, especially with the internet making everything move at hyper speed.  Take your time to digest what’s out there in terms of treatment options, support systems, heavy medical information, etc.
    2.       Get yourself into a respected cancer center as soon as possible. Find an oncologist that you trust and have a good relationship with, and then TRUST that doctor.
    3.       Take everything, except what your oncologist tells you to your face, with a grain of salt.  There is a ton of real, semi-bogus and totally bogus information out there about magical cures and treatments.  Ask your doctor about all of them but, in the end, do what he or she advises.
    4.       Take a step back, look at the road ahead as objectively as you can and try to be practical.  It is the “C” word but, after all, it’s an illness not a curse or a death sentence.  Come up with a treatment plan together with your doctor, follow that plan and do what you need to do in order to stay healthy
    5.       Don’t give cancer more power than it already has by thinking you can’t face it and just giving up.  You can face it.  Maybe not today, or all the time, but eventually and most of the time you can.
    Lung cancer is just the same as any other kind of cancer. It will take the people you love just as heartlessly as any other form of the disease.    It’s really good at taking people away; men and women, smokers and non-smokers, old and young, any race and origin.  In fact, it’s better at that than most other cancers.  We could all get cancer, and none of us would deserve it.  We should fight it with research funding, trials, promoting new and existing treatments, by helping people pay for treatment, and everything else at our disposal. Not giving lung cancer the fight it deserves leaves us all that much more powerless to stop it from taking away someone we love.

  2. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Free and Invaluable   
    Using the words free and invaluable to characterize lung cancer medical care is a hard sell. I’ve seen so many scams promising this, that, and the other thing that deliver nothing more than a money pit.  So I was indeed skeptical when Dr. David S. Schrump introduced his National Cancer Institute Intramural cancer treatment program, at our April 2018 LUNGevity Summit, with the words “no cost to patients, including travel and lodging.”
    Why didn’t I know about this resource?  I’ve encountered so many newly diagnosed folks who had no or inadequate insurance and who had to forgo treatment because of financial concerns. Yet, there is a sophisticated, taxpayer funded, medical system that designs “unique to patient” protocols including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and newly emerging treatments. And, it is free! All patients at the NIH are on investigational protocols, including those who are receiving standard care, so that their tumor tissues, blood, etc can be used to develop new cancer therapies. Once a patient is enrolled onto a protocol, care is provided at no cost. There is no third party billing, deductables, etc.
    Then on the second summit day, I learned Dr. Schrump’s Surgical Oncology Team is developing unique vaccine-like immunotherapies using tumor material surgically removed from a patient — a tailored and individualized immunotherapy agent. In an ongoing vaccine study, Dr. Schrump’s team observed immune responses to lung cancer-associated proteins in 60% of patients; several responders have had unusually prolonged disease free-survivals, supporting further evaluation of the vaccine. Dr. Schrump hopes that personalized vaccines may one day be an alternative to adjuvant or post-surgical chemotherapy, the current standard of care. Much more work needs to be done to determine to feasibility and potential efficacy of this approach.
    Moreover, they are using aerosol delivery methods as alternatives to IV or oral administered drugs to increase the uptake of drugs into lung cancer cells, and “prime” them for attack by the immune system. Indeed, his presentation was filled with very innovative methods of attacking lung cancer with promising results.
    If you are an American and don’t have the financial resources for lung cancer treatment or if your medical team has run out of treatment ideas, contact the National Cancer Institute.  You don’t need a physician referral. Email [email protected], introduce yourself and your diagnosis stage and type and put your phone number in the email.  Free and invaluable may indeed be words appropriate to use in concert with lung cancer treatment.
  3. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Susan Cornett for a blog entry, Another recurrence, another call to Mom and Dad   
    I've said it before and I'll say it again:  cancer can be as hard, if not harder, on the loved ones than the patients.  Our family is very close  - I don't have any siblings and my husband and I don't have children.  Our family unit is small.  After 2.5 years, my husband and I have a process.  He goes with me to all of my scan result appointments.  As soon as Super Doc gives us the results, Neal steps out and texts or calls my parents with the updates.  I always want to be with them if we have to give them bad news. My parents live 4 hours away; otherwise, I think they'd crowd into the exam room with us.
    Although we had to give them bad news a couple of weeks ago, we actually had something in our favor.  A lifelong friend of mine was visiting with them on the way to take her daughter to tour a college.  She was able to keep my parents somewhat balanced this time.  I'd been preparing them for the results - figured this was coming.  But no one wants to have to call their parents and tell them the cancer is back.  Stupid cancer.
  4. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Survivor's Thanksgiving   
    Today, on our Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful that all in this photo, taken in November 2015, still survive.
    Stay the course.

  5. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, The Cadence of Scan Days   
    "Count-off...One, Two...Count-off...Three, Four...Bring it on down now...One, Two, Three, Four, One-Two...Three-Four!" 
    My life is filled with counting.  As a young soldier on the march, we counted cadence to stay in step.  The rhythm of the cadence was an elixir to the mile-upon-mile-upon-mile of forced march in full combat load.  They always scheduled the forced march on the hottest day, or the wettest day, or the coldest day of the year.  One memorable march was the day after a hurricane!  Weather or not, we marched and counted.
    After diagnosis with lung cancer, my life embraced a different sort of cadence.  There was the countdown to scan day, then time stopped waiting for results.  One...what time is it...just ten in the morning...the clock battery is out...is it back...how bad...how many nodules...how big...ten-oh-two...mets in the bones...liver also...scan tech didn't smile...he saw something...ohGod....  Life just stopped waiting for results.  Time stopped!
    Waiting for scan results is absolute misery coupled with measured doses of agony and anguish, torment, despondency and gloom thrown in for good measure!  Each day was a twenty-five-mile forced march that started but never ended.  Cancer sucks but waiting for scan results sucks squared! 
    Stay the course.
     

  6. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Susan Cornett for a blog entry, There are days....   
    Most days, the cancer is buried somewhere in my thoughts, my work, my hobbies - not at the surface.  But there are days when it hits me right between the eyes.  Cancer.  How the hell did I get here? Is this really my life?  
    Wondering if anyone else has experienced this.
  7. Like
    Judy M. reacted to LaurenH for a blog entry, Ashley Rickles   
    “I’m sorry, sweetheart these are tumors in your lungs and a form of lung cancer”.
    These were the words spoken to a vibrant, healthy 36-year-old female on October 19, 2017, by the thoracic surgeon. I knew that things were probably not good when he came in and asked if I was alone. Unfortunately, I was alone. Looking back, that day seems like a blur. I remember the ladies at the checkout desk asking how I was doing as they ask so many patients all day long. It’s mere customer service, right? I never made eye contact and mustered enough energy to say the word “fine”. I was far from fine, but I just wanted to get out of there.
    I never cried in the doctor’s office that day, but walking down that winding hallway and through the parking lot felt like I was carrying cinder blocks for shoes around my feet. The minute I got in my car and closed the door was the moment that I completely lost myself. I have cancer. I am going to die. My parents are going to have to bury their only child. My world felt like it had crashed.
    The days and weeks ahead were just amazing considering my new circumstances. People loved on me like I had never been loved on before. I received cards and texts and all sorts of support, but a part of me wanted to tell them that I was still the same person and I appreciated the cards of support, but that I wasn’t dead yet. Please hold the flowers too.
    My lung cancer diagnosis was a complete shock as it is to so many. However, I was asymptomatic and cancer was the last thing on my brain. I was hospitalized for a Bartholin Cyst. I had my yearly exam already scheduled with my OB/GYN and this exam was far from routine. I explained to the nurse that I was in pain and was running temperatures between 101-103⁰. I visited the local emergency room twice to attempt to acquire some relief and was incorrectly diagnosed. My OB/GYN admitted me to get antibiotics started quickly and mentioned a minor surgery, but before I went to the hospital, he wanted me to have a CT of my abdomen to identify the cyst prior to any procedure.
    Thankfully, the tech caught just the lower portion of my lungs on that scan and the radiologist noted lung nodules.  When I went back to my OB/GYN for my check up, he mentioned the lung nodules and ordered a full chest scan. He informed me that people had benign nodules and they could be there from my severe infection, but that he wanted to just make sure that it wasn’t anything.
    The next day he called me to inform that the nodules were still there and he would like for me to see a Pulmonary Specialist.  I agreed and the Pulmonary Specialist was very concerned about the number of nodules in my lungs which were over 100 scattered across both lungs. He conducted a bronchoscope and a needle biopsy for which both were non-diagnostic and I was then punted to the Thoracic Surgeon. The Thoracic Surgeon removed three wedge sections and sent the pathology off to Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
    After further molecular testing, my oncologist educated me on the different mutations and the path of treatment that would be taken for each of them. It was determined that I was Stage IV due to both lungs being involved and was positive for T790M. I began Tagrisso as a first line on November 11, 2017. After 6 months on this drug, my last scans read “barely perceptible”. I will keep taking Tagrisso until resistance occurs and hopefully there will be another inhibitor to take its place.
    When I was first diagnosed, I would literally wake up in the night in a panic. I couldn’t sleep, eat or function normally. I started browsing the internet for support groups and pages as well as social media. I found the LUNGevity private patient groups on Facebook and asked to be added to every single one of them. I began telling my story and people started responding to me and sharing their stories. Strangers were sending me encouraging private messages. I saw people living and thriving with an incurable, life-shortening disease. I found hope. I started sleeping and not crying so much. Finding those support groups really made the initial journey a bit easier.  Although we were strangers, we were brought together by a common bond. I’ve since been able to meet some of those people in person through the HOPE Summit and my “family” has grown by leaps and bounds. I would have never met these incredible people without lung cancer.
    Receiving a lung cancer diagnosis is not something any of us would have willingly signed up for, but I am thankful that I was able to find out before it spread all over my body and treatment options were expunged. I am also thankful for the perspective shift. I now know what it means to live each day with intent. The days of merely existing are over. It’s time to live and love life to the fullest because I now understand the value of each day that I am given.
     
     
     

  8. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Susan Cornett for a blog entry, Random thoughts   
    I'm in the middle of my quarterly scan appointments.  While I was waiting for my blood draw yesterday, I noticed a couple that was apparently new to the oncology clinic.  The wife is the patient and, when she was called into the lab, her husband got up to walk with her and she told him she was fine, just going for a blood draw.  I looked at his face and saw fear and I just wanted to give him a hug.  This is the part I hate the most - when we look into our loved ones' eyes and see their fear.  I just want to fix everything and I can't; we have so little control over this part of our lives.  I have no idea why she was there or what her diagnosis is, but I definitely said a prayer for them last night.  
     
  9. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, And Major Means What?   
    “Drug-related deaths have grown to be a major US public health problem over the last two decades.  Between 2006 and 2015 there were more than 515,000 deaths from drug overdoses.…” This from a March 26 article in Science Magazine. The death rate averages 5,722 per year over the cited period.  Further, “the drug epidemic is a pressing concern among policymakers.” This concern translates to a $865 million research budget for the National Institute on Drug Abuse. This budget funds $151,117 per individual drug-related death.
    This year, 163,199 Americans are projected to die from lung cancer. The National Institute of Health Lung Cancer research budget for 2018 is $282 million.  This level of research amounts to only $1,727 per individual death. 
    Lung cancer kills 28 times more people per year than drug addition, but the drug addiction research budget is 87 times larger then lung cancer’s on a per-death basis.  Clearly, our public health policy makers fail to understand the meaning of the word major.  The major and largely unaddressed US public health problem is death from lung cancer.
    Stay the course.
  10. Thanks
    Judy M. reacted to LaurenH for a blog entry, Carole Baker's Story   
    My lung cancer diagnosis came as quite a shock to my family, my doctors, and me as I’ve always maintained a healthy lifestyle. I exercised regularly, ate healthily, never smoked, and enjoyed a variety of outdoor sports and other activities with my husband and our three children. I worked as a learning specialist for children ages K-8 and loved my job. Everyone I was close to commented that I was “the healthiest person they know.”
    But in March 2011, after worsening back pain, I visited my physiatrist who ordered an MRI. I figured I had a disc issue with my back or created an injury from too much sitting during work. When I saw my doctor for the results, she was speechless; she told me my upper body was "riddled with lesions." I said there must be some mistake, that the scan was someone else’s.  As the doctor insisted there was no mix-up and this was truly me, I felt as if the floor had given way under me, a feeling that never seemed to fade from my day-to-day experience.
    I was 54 years old. A few days later, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Since I was an otherwise healthy, active, never-smoker, the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center predicted I would have the EGFR mutation, and the biopsy results proved they were right. The targeted therapy, Tarceva, shrunk my tumors, and with tolerable side effects, allowed me to continue leading a relatively normal life. I even took up sculling, a sport that I had always aspired to learn.
    However, I was disappointed when only after 9 months my cancer figured out a “way around” the Tarceva, which is expected for targeted therapies (referred to as acquired resistance). Thus, began my participation in a series of clinical trials and chemotherapy, all with mixed results and, at times, difficult side effects, which forced me to retire from my work which I truly loved and still miss a lot.
    One bright period during these trials was a 14-month durable response from a trial combining Tarceva and the immunotherapy drug called Nivolumab, also known as Opdivo.  Unfortunately, after 14 months I had to be quickly removed from this trial due to adrenal failure and colitis.  In addition, I have been taking blood thinners since the diagnosis because of a DVT that was found at that time, and a couple of years ago I had a brain tumor surgically removed. My latest battle is with Leptomeningeal Disease, against which I hope to beat the odds once again.
    Throughout my treatment, I’ve taken advantage of different integrative health services to help manage symptoms and side effects, such as acupuncture, counseling, support groups, and meditation. I can’t say these endeavors were always helpful, but it was important for me to try to find alternate ways to manage symptoms, both physical and emotional.  However, over time my stamina began to wane, and my sense of self efficacy began to diminish. It became increasingly frustrating not to be able to do the things I always enjoyed. The treatments and their side effects can wear you down.
    Initially, I struggled to find camaraderie with other survivors who have the same mutation as mine. Social media has been particularly helpful, especially in the beginning when I was trying to learn about different treatments and find a community. LUNGevity, Cancer Grace, and Inspire, and Lung Care Alliance were all useful sources of information and support.
    My husband has been a great support and care giver. Initially, he dug into the research to learn what treatments were in development, so we knew what was in the pipeline. Moreover, my children have also been there for me. Even though they’ve grown up and don’t live at home anymore, they still come to visit me as often as they can. It has been difficult for me to accept not being able to participate in their activities and lives the way I was able to when I was healthy. It has been a continuing effort for me to feel “a part of the game.”
    If I could share my experience with someone newly diagnosed, I would recommend getting as much information as you can from credible sources and not being afraid to get second opinions. It’s best to be treated at a major cancer center even if it means traveling because the research experience, depth of knowledge, and specialists they provide are cutting-edge. I would also recommend participating in clinical trials if they’re an option, as well as trying to find people to connect with who are going through similar situations.
    Since my diagnosis, life has been a roller-coaster ride of living with uncertainty and trying to function amidst toxic side effects. I try to appreciate the good days and keep active. This spring will be my seventh-year anniversary living with Stage IV lung cancer. I am grateful for those who are raising awareness of lung cancer as a growing epidemic in non-smoking women and am excited to share my story to help other patients. I am especially interested in helping to erase the stigma that lung cancer is only a smoker’s disease, and hopefully increase research funding to the level it should be.


  11. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Lung Cancer's Painful Quadratic Equation   
    Early on, we learn Algebraic equations with only one solution. Then we encounter equations with two solutions -- Quadratic Equations. Consider: x2 + 3x – 4 = 0. This has two solutions:  x = -4 or x = 1. Both are correct; one is negative and one is positive. Algebra students get very comfortable with solutions having a positive and negative outcome -- lung cancer survivors are less comfortable!
    The positive outcome for lung cancer is extended life. But like quadratic equations, there can be negative outcomes that are less desirable.  Mine is chronic pain.  So to the question, how does one fit a negative outcome into the positive?  No, Algebra does not help.  But, for those in treatment or surviving after treatment, preparing for life with negative outcomes is helpful.
    My chronic pain has two primary and many secondary causes.  I have peripheral neuropathy -- numbness in fingers and toes including a burning sensation in toes and pain in the foot joints.  It is a common Taxol side effect, and we informally call it “taxol toes.”  Also, I have nerve damage caused by quite a few surgeries to my right chest that is chronically painful. How do I fit these negative outcomes into life?
    My strategy is to tolerate chronic pain until bedtime.  Then something must be done or I won’t sleep.  I’ve cycled through over-the-counter, then prescribed sleep medications.  Both worked for a while.  Doc found a study suggesting a therapeutic effect for Xanax on chronic pain.  He prescribed a 0.5mg dose at bedtime, allowing an increase to a total of 1.5mg.  This relaxes me and makes me drowsy.  It works about 6-in-10 nights. 
    A secondary cause sometimes drives pain above chronic levels. These are: chemotherapy induced joint pain; muscle cramps; stress, anger and excitement; sneezing and coughing; and flying on aircraft.  The joint pain, an in-treatment side effect, required narcotic medication in every case to relieve.  Reliance on narcotics has two downsides: an inability to think and function normally the next day and constipation. However, other secondary causes occasionally require narcotic medication to achieve relief.  Because of the downside to narcotics, we’ve developed a couple of unique pain abatement procedures that may be of interest.
    Our first strategy is to apply prescribed lidocaine transdermal patches to incision scars and or feet in combination with Xanax.  Since lidocaine dosage is limited to 2 patches, my wife cuts them into strips and fits them along my incision scars, and applies them to my feet.  A pair of tight fitting socks are stretched over my feet to keep them in place. When the offending pain spike is either in my chest or feet, a full 2-patch application is used.  The patches are applied in time to allow the Xanax to work and I sleep, hopefully.
    The next works only for feet and is a back-up strategy if lidocaine fails.  My wife uses an ace bandage to wrap reusable frozen Blue Ice packs to the bottom of each foot.  The cold is very uncomfortable for a couple of minutes, but in a short time my feet are numb and if I’m lucky, I sleep.
    Muscle cramping is a long term side effect from chemotherapy. It stems from low Magnesium blood levels.  I take at least 500 mg of Magnesium supplement per day.  My oncologist would rather I take 1000 mg, but I suffer digestive system revolt. I learned that almonds provide 75 mg of Magnesium per ounce so I snack in lieu of a second pill.  Regardless, I still experience one to two cramping events per day.  When they occur anywhere near my feet or chest, chronic pain soars.   There is however, no remedy for cramps.  The worst occur in the middle of the night and wake me up.
    Archimedes, the ancient Greek hydrologist, provided an explanation for why immersing up to my neck in a swimming pool eases incision pain.  The upward buoyant force of the water offsets the gravitational pull on chest incisions thus minimizing pain.  Almost every day our community pool is open, I spend hours in the water.  This does not eliminate pain but reduces it noticeably. On leaving the pool, the normal level returns but it is very therapeutic.  Lying in a bathroom tub, unfortunately, does not work because there is not enough water for complete submersion.  A hot tub works fine, but there is no difference in pain relief from water temperature. 
    Flying in a commercial airliner also spurs chronic incision pain.  Most airlines pressurize their cabin between 6,000 and 8,000 feet pressure altitude.  This lower-than-sea-level pressure expands my chest cavity increasing incision pain.  All commercial flights hurt but long flights are very painful often requiring a dose of narcotic medication in flight.  Not flying is the only remedy.  Those having thoracic surgery have long complained of incision pain after commercial air flights and cabin pressure is the cause.
    Another secondary cause is extensive coughing and sneezing.  Sneezing is particularly bad when it is a “surprise sneeze”.  During the worst pollen events, I stay indoors and I try and avoid school age children to keep the chest colds in check, especially when school is in session.  The last secondary cause I have the most control over: stress, anger and excitement.  Admittedly, excitement is the easiest to control except when the Dallas Cowboys are playing my beloved Philadelphia Eagles.  These two games a year are indeed stressful and since I live among cowboys, someone is going to be angry over the outcome.
    My wife reminds me when I complain too much that I am lucky to be alive.  What’s a little pain given the alternative.  She’s right.  Doc reminds me to avoid scheduling things in the morning so I can sleep-in late if pain interferes.  He’s right.  Football season is right around the corner and it is a good thing games are scheduled in the afternoon and evening.  
    Now if the Eagles start winning, everything will be fine!
    Stay the course.
  12. Like
    Judy M. reacted to LaurenH for a blog entry, Kyle McCarthy   
    My Dad was always my Ironman when I was growing up. In 2004, my dad had a persistent cough. He went to the doctor a few times and was finally diagnosed with pneumonia. A year went by and the cough went away for awhile. When it returned, my dad went back to the doctor. He was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I was 17 at the time.
    After he was diagnosed, my Dad signed up for Heather Saler’s Lung Cancer Walk in Pennsauken, NJ, which eventually became Breathe Deep South Jersey.  My dad didn’t do the full walk, but he was part of the survivor ceremony. I went with him and that was how we found out about LUNGevity and decided to start fundraising.
    My dad passed away in 2006, less than a year after he was diagnosed, but he taught me so much during that time. I saw how strong he was during his battle. He never gave up and gave it everything he had.
    My dad was a photographer. When he passed away in February 2006, my girlfriend (who is now my wife) and I put together a show with all of his photos at a local restaurant. People could come just to see the photos or they could buy them to help raise funds for LUNGevity. The second year, people who were impacted by cancer, either themselves or a loved one, donated artwork for the show.
    My dad was also a runner. He ran several marathons. I ran my first marathon, the New York City Marathon, in 2016. I wanted to strive for something more challenging so I decided to do the Ironman Lake Placid for Team LUNGevity. Lake Placid is the longest running Ironman event in North America and this is 20th Anniversary year, so it will be a great event. It consists of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run.
    Doing an Ironman is going to be the toughest thing I ever attempt. I wake up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. and either swim, bike, or run for about an hour, then go to work, come home, and train again in the evening. I’ll be training for about seven months total. I’ll be posting my Ironman journey throughout my training all year long on Facebook. I’ll also post stories of my Dad and news from LUNGevity. And hopefully when I finish that Ironman, I will be wearing something LUNGevity.
    If anything is going to inspire me to complete this Ironman, it is my Dad. The least I can do is try to raise money for lung cancer research in his name. Every dollar counts and every life matters. I hope that my fundraising efforts will make a difference in the fight against lung cancer. Maybe it is the dollar that helps find the cure, maybe it helps give someone affected by this disease sometime of motivation or maybe it just makes people more aware of lung cancer.


  13. Sad
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, My Friend Randy   
    It was mid-morning on a beautiful February Sunday in Texas when my phone rang.  Randy’s name flashed on my phone screen and on realizing who it was, my mind raced to recall the last time we spoke. Pam his wife greeted me, a mild surprise.
    Randy and I grew up in the same Pennsylvanian township and attended high school together.  Our lives parted with college and after an Army career took me everywhere but home. Randy settled in our hometown.  We had many things in common including surviving lethal cancer.
    Five years ago, Randy and I had a fortuitous meeting online in a cancer blog site.  Randy was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL).  We soon reconnected and were gabbling away during marathon telephone calls.  When we spoke, our wives went shopping!
    Our last conversation was shortly before the Super Bowl. Randy’s disease reoccurred and he was back in chemotherapy.  He’d seen blood work indicators during the fall, yet he remained hopeful that treatment would again arrest his cancer. Randy’s form of CLL was characterized by adverse prognostic factors. CLL is rarely cured; never cured applied to Randy.
    While recurrence and mortality were frequent topics, hope and joy always dominated our conversations.  We helped each other find meaning in our fragile lives.  We coached away depression.  We talked about everything: music, obtuse rock-in-roll lyrics, being young, high school girls, cars, motorcycles, politics, military tactics, bourbon, ballistics, physics, even the strength characteristics of bolts. We formed a bond of friendship experienced by few. 
    Pam’s voice was a tell and then instantly I knew Randy was no longer a survivor. Our friendship ended on February 17th.  Pam is without her beloved husband, and I am missing my dear friend.  Randy was a man of great wisdom tempered by uncommon common sense.  His virtues of kindness, selflessness, and courage stood like great pillars in our least-common-denominator world. Today, that world is smaller, colder, and far less interesting.
    For Pam.
    Stay the course.
     
  14. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Susan Cornett for a blog entry, Cancerversary   
    Today, I happily paint two of my toes red, to celebrate two years of being a survivor.  Some days I ask myself it has really only been 2 years because it feels like I got the diagnosis so long ago.  Lots of scans and needles and chemo and radiation and....I'm still here!  
    I woke up this morning, very cheerful, almost like I was celebrating a birthday.  I realize that EVERY SINGLE DAY is a gift, whether we have lung cancer or not, but that cancer seems to make each day that much more important.  While I was thinking about everything today, I was overcome with emotion.  I know that I am blessed to have as much time as I've had.  I think about the friends I've made in this "club" that are no longer here.  For those friends, and for the rest of us, we continue to choose life.  

  15. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Ninety Percent Mental   
    Summer has ended and baseball is in World Series mode.  I’m a long suffering Philadelphia Phillies fan — a Phanatic!  To have a lifelong fascination with a mediocre baseball club requires supreme dedication, unusual perseverance, and a strong conviction that tomorrow will be a far better day.  These attributes are prerequisites for facing a daunting lung cancer diagnosis and enduring the arduousness of treatment.
    Danny Ozark, once manager of the Phillies, took the team from perennial cellar dwellers to contenders. He explained his formula for success thusly: “Half this game is ninety percent mental!” Dismissing the missing half, the same can be said of life after lung cancer treatment.
    Presume diagnostic and treatment routines of lung cancer are largely similar; the unique and difficult challenges occur post treatment.  Adding Ozark’s missing half, coping with post treatment life challenge "is ninety percent mental.”  Individually, each will face a distinct challenge set but universally, life will be different than life before treatment. How so?
    First was a misplaced expectation to return to pre-diagnostic life. After NED, there were so many things I could no longer do. It took a while to realize I needed to carve out a new lifestyle. There is a new normal life after lung cancer, but the mental challenge is finding it. No one gives you new normal; you have to make it.
    Several side effects became chronic conditions. Coping becomes a mental challenge. Everyday, I play a round of mind over matter. Most days my mind wins but I have to live with losing days.  Too many in a row and I need help.  Fortunately, my wife is a godsend. Plan to have someone trusted close by.  
    I’ve learned to go well out of my way to avoid confrontation. There are no “civil” discussion these days.  There is disagreement, branding, insult and anger.  My spin cycle goes one step farther to pain.  If I walk away, I may have a good day.  I won’t if I don’t. I’ve learned to control how I feel about something and not caring enough to have an opinion works well indeed.
    My new normal life is both challenging and enjoyable.  Achieving that state involves application of Danny Ozark’s recipe for baseball success — new normal life “is ninety percent mental.”
    Stay the course.
  16. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Tis The Season   
    Today we pause to celebrate new life, life continued, and hope renewed.  For me this is a holy season but it has a much broader meaning, especially for those struggling with lung cancer. Christmas Day is a celebration of new life and a continuation of life. The new life is Christ while continuation is everyone alive.  Including especially, those who live with lung cancer. We have at first glance an insurmountable challenge: to live with a disease that consumes our body with cells made of our body.  Indeed, our disease is a paradoxical phenomena.  Yet, we live. We rise above the biological paradox, thus our celebration of life continued.
    The hope of the season is reflected in many ways. On earth's scale, each day length changes as we orbit towards spring. Thus hope is realized as we progress in day length and temperature change. On the lung cancer scale, we hope for good treatment outcomes and new treatment methods. Fortunately, outcomes are improving, sometimes dramatically as are methods. But the progression of seasonal change is neither smooth nor completely predictable. There will be uncertain days ahead.  Similarly, as lung cancer survivors we will face disappointment and perhaps reversals.  But like the season, treatment is a progression: a change over time.  And the renewal of hope for survivors is the belief that progression toward success will continue.
    My wish for all lung cancer survivors is the gift of life continued.
    Stay the course.
     
     
  17. Like
    Judy M. reacted to KatieB for a blog entry, Don't Help Me. Please Help Me.   
    Don't help me.
    I am a fiercely independant woman.  i am a survivor.  I am strong.  I will beat this (insert cancer type/condition here) and my life will inspire others. If I show weakness then it wins.  I will get up everyday and tackle the world.  I will do my hair and put on lipstick and look as amazing as I can so no one will know that I am "sick". I will not ask anyone for help.  I will carry all of the groceries into the house.  I will change the water bottle on the water cooler.  I will carry packages to Fex Ex.  I will walk the dogs. I will drive myself to scan appointments and blood draws and biopsies.  I will wash and dry laundry and I will never miss a single day of work.  
    Please help me.  
    I get up everyday in pain.  It takes me longer these days to do my hair and put on my lipstick.  I carry all the groceries into the house and I have to sit, catch my breath before I put them away.  I wait until I am practically dying of thirst before I change the water bottle on the cooler.  I carry the heavy packages into Fed Ex one 5 pound box at a time.  I no longer walk the dogs- that's what the doggy door is for.  I drive myself to scan appointments and wring my hands and bounce my leg because I am afraid of bad results.  I drive myself to biospies and sometime I cry when I'm alone and putting my clothes back on.  I can take laundry for 4 people up the stairs and put them away, but my body will hurt for two days after.   I never miss a single day of work- but sometimes I am working from my bed.
    It's easier for me to help others than it is to help myself.  While I want to do everything myself- there are times that I get really annoyed if those I love don't offer to help me.  
    To their credit how can they know I need help when I don't look or act "sick"? 
    Ask me.
     
     

     
  18. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from Steff for a blog entry, So Far So Good   
    Had my last chemo on Aug. 3 and C. T. scans of chest, abdomen, and pelvis toward the end of August. The 3 tumors in my lungs had shrunk and still no spread of the cancer seen anywhere else. Have recovered from chemo side effects and just been enjoying not having to think about or battle the cancer for a while. Don't seem to have any long term effects from the radiation. Had a short bout of more coughing and shortness of breath right after last chemo. But from what I've read this could have been the result of the chemo or the radiation or both. A short course of steroids took care of that and have had no trouble since then. Will be having P. E. T. scan in early Dec. So far, have been happy with my treatment. I believe it was the best I could have been given in the circumstances. 
    Judy M. 
  19. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from Tom Galli for a blog entry, So Far So Good   
    Had my last chemo on Aug. 3 and C. T. scans of chest, abdomen, and pelvis toward the end of August. The 3 tumors in my lungs had shrunk and still no spread of the cancer seen anywhere else. Have recovered from chemo side effects and just been enjoying not having to think about or battle the cancer for a while. Don't seem to have any long term effects from the radiation. Had a short bout of more coughing and shortness of breath right after last chemo. But from what I've read this could have been the result of the chemo or the radiation or both. A short course of steroids took care of that and have had no trouble since then. Will be having P. E. T. scan in early Dec. So far, have been happy with my treatment. I believe it was the best I could have been given in the circumstances. 
    Judy M. 
  20. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from KatieB for a blog entry, My Stage IV S.B.R.T. Experience   
    In March of this year I was diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC, Adenocarcinoma,  as the result of a case of pneumonia. Already under the care of a Medical Oncologist as the result of having been treated for another type of cancer the previous year. That treatment went well, NED. On my first consultation he explained the standard treatment options for stage IV. What I was hearing ( and said to him), was, "So the bottom line is I'm dead." I have to admit that I taped the consult and was a bit ashamed of myself when I listened later. I actually like my Med. Oncologist but was very aggressive. Finally, he said, "Okay, you're young ( not really), and healthy and respond well to treatment, so let's go for a cure." He had done a study with some other doctors on treating Oligometestatic lung cancer with a curative intent. Oligometestatic means, in my case, that I had a nodule in my left lung and 2 in my right lung, but P.E.T. showed no spread outside my lungs. C.T.'s done since then still do not. Talked with my family and we decided within 24 hours to go with his plan. His plan was to give me S.B.R.T radiation on all 3 tumors followed by chemo. Then hit a snag with Radiology Oncologist. He didn't want to do rhis. His concerns were that it wasn't standard of care ( it has since come into standard of care) and that I'd had 33 standard radiation treatments to my right breast the year before, so he was considering possible toxicity issues. I persisted, my Med. Oncologist persisted, and by God's grave a new doctor had just come on board at my hospital about the time I was diagnosed with extensive experience in S.B.R.T. So, I got my treatment. I had 5 fractions of 1000-1500 centigrays of radiation for a total of 4500-5000 centigrays over a 2 1/2 week period. It was done twice a week. Normally S.B.R.T. is done daily or every other day. I'm thinking my Rad. Oncologist chose to do it this way because of his concern about toxicity. The physicist assured me when I ask that the fractions were too high for the cancer to develop resistance in that length of time. They treated all 3 tumors each time. This took about 1 1/2 hours and I was required to lay totally still the entire time. That was the only difficult part. Had no adverse reactions to the radiation at the time and have not had any to date. Next scheduled for 4 chemo treatments of Cisplatin/Alimta spaced 3 weeks apart. Am one week out from my second treatment. Can't say I've had no side effects from this. You guys know exactly what I mean. Lol. The only scans I've had were brain M.R.I. and 2 abdomen/pelvic C.T.'s since diagnosis. Both were clear. Med. Oncologist plans to scan lungs at the end of chemo as of now. So we will see what we will see. Hoping this works out for me and will also help someone else down the road. Many thanks to Tom Galli for suggesting I do this blog, all his support, and hanging in there with me until I could figure out how to get it done. 
    Judy M.
     
     
  21. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from katiek for a blog entry, My Stage IV S.B.R.T. Experience   
    In March of this year I was diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC, Adenocarcinoma,  as the result of a case of pneumonia. Already under the care of a Medical Oncologist as the result of having been treated for another type of cancer the previous year. That treatment went well, NED. On my first consultation he explained the standard treatment options for stage IV. What I was hearing ( and said to him), was, "So the bottom line is I'm dead." I have to admit that I taped the consult and was a bit ashamed of myself when I listened later. I actually like my Med. Oncologist but was very aggressive. Finally, he said, "Okay, you're young ( not really), and healthy and respond well to treatment, so let's go for a cure." He had done a study with some other doctors on treating Oligometestatic lung cancer with a curative intent. Oligometestatic means, in my case, that I had a nodule in my left lung and 2 in my right lung, but P.E.T. showed no spread outside my lungs. C.T.'s done since then still do not. Talked with my family and we decided within 24 hours to go with his plan. His plan was to give me S.B.R.T radiation on all 3 tumors followed by chemo. Then hit a snag with Radiology Oncologist. He didn't want to do rhis. His concerns were that it wasn't standard of care ( it has since come into standard of care) and that I'd had 33 standard radiation treatments to my right breast the year before, so he was considering possible toxicity issues. I persisted, my Med. Oncologist persisted, and by God's grave a new doctor had just come on board at my hospital about the time I was diagnosed with extensive experience in S.B.R.T. So, I got my treatment. I had 5 fractions of 1000-1500 centigrays of radiation for a total of 4500-5000 centigrays over a 2 1/2 week period. It was done twice a week. Normally S.B.R.T. is done daily or every other day. I'm thinking my Rad. Oncologist chose to do it this way because of his concern about toxicity. The physicist assured me when I ask that the fractions were too high for the cancer to develop resistance in that length of time. They treated all 3 tumors each time. This took about 1 1/2 hours and I was required to lay totally still the entire time. That was the only difficult part. Had no adverse reactions to the radiation at the time and have not had any to date. Next scheduled for 4 chemo treatments of Cisplatin/Alimta spaced 3 weeks apart. Am one week out from my second treatment. Can't say I've had no side effects from this. You guys know exactly what I mean. Lol. The only scans I've had were brain M.R.I. and 2 abdomen/pelvic C.T.'s since diagnosis. Both were clear. Med. Oncologist plans to scan lungs at the end of chemo as of now. So we will see what we will see. Hoping this works out for me and will also help someone else down the road. Many thanks to Tom Galli for suggesting I do this blog, all his support, and hanging in there with me until I could figure out how to get it done. 
    Judy M.
     
     
  22. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from Julie in SoCal for a blog entry, My Stage IV S.B.R.T. Experience   
    In March of this year I was diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC, Adenocarcinoma,  as the result of a case of pneumonia. Already under the care of a Medical Oncologist as the result of having been treated for another type of cancer the previous year. That treatment went well, NED. On my first consultation he explained the standard treatment options for stage IV. What I was hearing ( and said to him), was, "So the bottom line is I'm dead." I have to admit that I taped the consult and was a bit ashamed of myself when I listened later. I actually like my Med. Oncologist but was very aggressive. Finally, he said, "Okay, you're young ( not really), and healthy and respond well to treatment, so let's go for a cure." He had done a study with some other doctors on treating Oligometestatic lung cancer with a curative intent. Oligometestatic means, in my case, that I had a nodule in my left lung and 2 in my right lung, but P.E.T. showed no spread outside my lungs. C.T.'s done since then still do not. Talked with my family and we decided within 24 hours to go with his plan. His plan was to give me S.B.R.T radiation on all 3 tumors followed by chemo. Then hit a snag with Radiology Oncologist. He didn't want to do rhis. His concerns were that it wasn't standard of care ( it has since come into standard of care) and that I'd had 33 standard radiation treatments to my right breast the year before, so he was considering possible toxicity issues. I persisted, my Med. Oncologist persisted, and by God's grave a new doctor had just come on board at my hospital about the time I was diagnosed with extensive experience in S.B.R.T. So, I got my treatment. I had 5 fractions of 1000-1500 centigrays of radiation for a total of 4500-5000 centigrays over a 2 1/2 week period. It was done twice a week. Normally S.B.R.T. is done daily or every other day. I'm thinking my Rad. Oncologist chose to do it this way because of his concern about toxicity. The physicist assured me when I ask that the fractions were too high for the cancer to develop resistance in that length of time. They treated all 3 tumors each time. This took about 1 1/2 hours and I was required to lay totally still the entire time. That was the only difficult part. Had no adverse reactions to the radiation at the time and have not had any to date. Next scheduled for 4 chemo treatments of Cisplatin/Alimta spaced 3 weeks apart. Am one week out from my second treatment. Can't say I've had no side effects from this. You guys know exactly what I mean. Lol. The only scans I've had were brain M.R.I. and 2 abdomen/pelvic C.T.'s since diagnosis. Both were clear. Med. Oncologist plans to scan lungs at the end of chemo as of now. So we will see what we will see. Hoping this works out for me and will also help someone else down the road. Many thanks to Tom Galli for suggesting I do this blog, all his support, and hanging in there with me until I could figure out how to get it done. 
    Judy M.
     
     
  23. Like
    Judy M. got a reaction from Tom Galli for a blog entry, My Stage IV S.B.R.T. Experience   
    In March of this year I was diagnosed with stage IV NSCLC, Adenocarcinoma,  as the result of a case of pneumonia. Already under the care of a Medical Oncologist as the result of having been treated for another type of cancer the previous year. That treatment went well, NED. On my first consultation he explained the standard treatment options for stage IV. What I was hearing ( and said to him), was, "So the bottom line is I'm dead." I have to admit that I taped the consult and was a bit ashamed of myself when I listened later. I actually like my Med. Oncologist but was very aggressive. Finally, he said, "Okay, you're young ( not really), and healthy and respond well to treatment, so let's go for a cure." He had done a study with some other doctors on treating Oligometestatic lung cancer with a curative intent. Oligometestatic means, in my case, that I had a nodule in my left lung and 2 in my right lung, but P.E.T. showed no spread outside my lungs. C.T.'s done since then still do not. Talked with my family and we decided within 24 hours to go with his plan. His plan was to give me S.B.R.T radiation on all 3 tumors followed by chemo. Then hit a snag with Radiology Oncologist. He didn't want to do rhis. His concerns were that it wasn't standard of care ( it has since come into standard of care) and that I'd had 33 standard radiation treatments to my right breast the year before, so he was considering possible toxicity issues. I persisted, my Med. Oncologist persisted, and by God's grave a new doctor had just come on board at my hospital about the time I was diagnosed with extensive experience in S.B.R.T. So, I got my treatment. I had 5 fractions of 1000-1500 centigrays of radiation for a total of 4500-5000 centigrays over a 2 1/2 week period. It was done twice a week. Normally S.B.R.T. is done daily or every other day. I'm thinking my Rad. Oncologist chose to do it this way because of his concern about toxicity. The physicist assured me when I ask that the fractions were too high for the cancer to develop resistance in that length of time. They treated all 3 tumors each time. This took about 1 1/2 hours and I was required to lay totally still the entire time. That was the only difficult part. Had no adverse reactions to the radiation at the time and have not had any to date. Next scheduled for 4 chemo treatments of Cisplatin/Alimta spaced 3 weeks apart. Am one week out from my second treatment. Can't say I've had no side effects from this. You guys know exactly what I mean. Lol. The only scans I've had were brain M.R.I. and 2 abdomen/pelvic C.T.'s since diagnosis. Both were clear. Med. Oncologist plans to scan lungs at the end of chemo as of now. So we will see what we will see. Hoping this works out for me and will also help someone else down the road. Many thanks to Tom Galli for suggesting I do this blog, all his support, and hanging in there with me until I could figure out how to get it done. 
    Judy M.
     
     
  24. Like
    Judy M. reacted to Tom Galli for a blog entry, Uncertain Treatment Outcomes: A Baseball Model   
    Baseball is a game that requires patient players and fans. Like lung cancer treatment, there is a lot of waiting for something to happen. Also like lung cancer, the game is unpredictable. A single pitch can change the outcome of a game like a single cell can change the outcome of treatment. And like lung cancer, baseball has many uncertainties and these are defined by odds. The best hitters succeed a little better than one in three times; the best teams winning about six in ten games. Baseball players need to persevere against low odds of success to achieve victory. So do lung cancer patients.
    A lung cancer diagnosis is devastating. Recurrence after treatment is common and traumatizing. We ought to prepare for the distress of recurrence. Treatment, even for those diagnosed at early stage, is not likely to be a walk-off home run. I was not prepared for treatment failure. How common is recurrence?
    A National Cancer Institute study suggests about 33 percent of stage IA and IB patients experience a reoccurrence. Up to 66 percent of stage IIA, IIB, or IIIA experience a reoccurrence. Interestingly, these percentages are virtually identical for both adenocarcinoma and squamous cell lung cancers. What about stage IIIB or IV disease? The study reports recurrence about half that of lower stages but suggests this is due to competing risk of mortality.
    Including surgery, my treatment success average was a dismal 1 for 5. That translates to a baseball batting average of .200, yielding a quick trip to the minor leagues. I had four recurrences after no evidence of disease (NED) treatments. We didn’t know perseverance was a requirement and we were not prepared.
    How should we prepare? Here is what I didn’t do. Have a frank conversation with my oncologist seeking information on recurrence likelihood. Share this information with my family to ensure they were prepared for bad news. Finally, celebrate my NED state by fully engaging in life. NED is that extra life treatment buys and we did not take maximum advantage of it. 
    A sidebar benefit of surviving is accumulating lessons learned. I now completely understand that lung cancer is a persistent malady that is difficult to eradicate with unpredictable treatment outcomes. Like the best baseball players, we need to take our turn at each new treatment with a fresh perspective, forgetting our last experience and striving only to put the ball in play and arrest our disease. 
    Stay the course.
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