Saturday, December 17, 2016

Good News Spreads Fast

My Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge is going well. At the moment, I'm in the running for the third place prize. I'm approaching the halfway milestone of my $10,000 fundraising goal.
I've turned to social media to advertise and promote my fundraiser and spread awareness. One of these methods is Thunderclap. You can help promote  my Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge Fundraiser. By signing up you will help share a scheduled message on Twitter, Facebook and Tumbler.
Click HERE to join my Thunderclap.

What is Thunderclap?
Thunderclap is a tool that lets a message be heard when you and your friends say it together. Think of it as an "online flash mob." Join a Thunderclap, and you and others will share the same message at the same time, spreading an idea through Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr that cannot be ignored.

I need the support of 100 people before December 26. With Thunderclap, I'm not asking for donations. I just need 100 people to go to my Thunderclap and click "Support". That's it. If I reach 100 clicks to support me, my Super Bowl Challenge will blast out over social media, one time, at the same time. There is potential of sharing my fundraiser with thousands of thousands of people. 
Click HERE to join my Thunderclap.
Thank you for your support.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giving and Receiving

Giving Tuesday was followed by Overwhelmed Wednesday. I expected a few additional donations to my Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge on Tuesday due to the nature of the day. But I never imagined I would receive nearly $2K in one day. That amount is amazing. I'm so grateful for everyone's generosity.

Giving Tuesday was a great big success. I created a one day Facebook fundraiser that will be matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as part of their Giving Tuesday campaign. That means the $742 that was donated will become $1,484!!!! In addition to the donation made directly at my contest site, the Giving Tuesday donations totalled $1984!!!!

I have taken advantage of opportunities presented to me to represent the lung cancer community. One is the chance of going to the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl or the Taste of NFL as a lung cancer patient advocate while raising awareness of lung cancer and the need for research funds.

At this point 50% of the donations collected will be be donated to the foundation of my choice, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC). When my donation total reaches $5,000, 80% will be donated to IASLC.

Thank you to everyone that donated and shared my fundraiser links. Because of you I'm currently in the top running for the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge.

The Facebook fundraiser was a one day event. But the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge is not over. You can still donate until January 1, 2017.

Click the link on my blog or HERE to donate today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Super Bowl Challenge

I kicked off my Cleveland Fans Against Lung Cancer fundraising campaign this month. This is part Team Draft's 2017 Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge. This is a friendly competition between lung cancer survivors to raise funds for lung cancer foundations and cancer centers of the survivor's choice. The survivor that raises the most funds will win a trip to the Super Bowl in Houston, TX. Second place is a trip to the Pro Bowl in Orlando, FL and third place gets to attend  26th Annual Taste of NFL.

I set my fundraising goal high. I know with your help I can reach that goal. Lung cancer research funds are critical to my future and my quality of life.

My funds will be donated to the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer in Denver, CO. I attended my first lung cancer event in September 2015. It was just two weeks after my stage iv lung cancer diagnosis. That event was the Pancake Walk Kickoff Breakfast for the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Denver. That day I was introduced to a handful of peopleand survivors in the lung cancer community. They gave me information, hope and advice that I will always remember and hold near and dear to my heart.

In Week 10 of  NFL season, the Browns have an 0-10 record. The Cleveland Browns may not be going to the Super Bowl this year. I may never get to see the Browns at a Super Bowl in my lifetime. But you could help send this Cleveland fan to the big game this year.

Together we can #tacklelungcancer.
I challenge you to make a donation today and find one (or more) person to match your donation.
Click HERE to make a donation today.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

How Not To Let Lung Cancer Win

I completed my Livestrong at the Y program. I tried not to miss any Livestrong days at the gym during the program. There was one particular day that I was feeling very down and tired. I just didn't have it in me that day. But my boyfriend gave me a pep talk. If you would put his pep talks in a book, the title would be, "How Not To Let Lung Cancer Win". Think in this instance he used my, no missed opportunities, motto to remind me that I should not stay at home on the couch that evening.

I went to class. It was yoga that day. Even when I was feeling some pain and I was run down from the day, I was there. I was able to fully participate. The instructor said some words that made quite an impression that day and impacted me for the rest of my life. We were holding a pose and she said something along the lines of, "this is how you are today. Recognize it. But it doesn't mean that's how you will be tomorrow."

In my day planner, in July 2016, there is one day marked with several stars. That was one of the very few days I had no pain, no fatigue, and I almost made it through the whole day without thinking or talking about my lung cancer. Those days are very rare. It's only happened a couple times since starting my treatment in September 2015.

I don't post too much about the bad days. My symptoms and side effects are intermittent. If I do complain, in the next few days things are different. My approach is the "life must go on" method. Almost like, putting the negatives in words will give them strength.

I had goals set for this fall that I've had to change or postpone to next year. Remember how excited I was about running again? I was only able to run a couple of times. At the same time as I started running again my side effects started kicking in. I was getting tired more easily. Stomach and digestive issues that I've been lucky enough to mostly avoid were happening often. I was experiencing new types of pain.  I was training to run the Run the Rocks 5k in October. If mental preparedness was all it took, I would have climbed the incline already. But the downside of feeling so well and living a half way normal life is feeling not so well at the same time.

The body and the mind are strange. Does the comfort of friends and family or the excitement of an opportunity/event overpower the negative effects and feelings caused by my lung cancer and treatment? The answer must be, yes.

Surrounded by my dearest friends and with the support of my family, I was able to complete and even run a good portion of the Run the Rocks 5k last month.
This is what Stage iv lung cancer looks like on a good day....and sometimes on a bad day too.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

How Lucky Am I?

"How lucky am I?" I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I've said that since my August 2015 lung cancer diagnosis.

From testing positive for the EGFR genetic mutation
living within 75 miles of one of the best lung cancer research facilities and oncologists in the world
the support of my friends and family and their friends and families
having the quality of life I have being able to live with stage iv lung cancer, how lucky am I?

In February 2016 my friend, Todd, asked me to taste test a beer he had brewed in bottles at his home. It was a very good beer. He said he wanted me to name the beer and he would brew it in my honor. After a couple days of brainstorming we came up with Lisa's Luck Amber Ale.
Who gets a beer named after them?
How Lucky Am I?

During the brainstorming sessions, we discussed the possibilities of using Lisa's Luck Amber Ale to spread lung cancer awareness. We also talked about maybe donating a portion of the proceeds to lung cancer research. But there are licensing issues and liquor laws that keep home brewers from producing and selling their beers, even if it is for charity.

It was brewing talent, not luck, that brought Lisa's Luck to life. Earlier in the year Todd submitted his Lisa's Luck Amber Ale entry in the Fifth Street Brew Pub's Homebrew Beer Contest. He won. Lisa's Luck Amber Ale was produced on a large scale.

The Lisa's Luck Amber Ale Tapping Party was on Saturday, September 17, 2016. My friends and family donated money to buy me a round trip ticket to fly from Colorado to Ohio to attend the event. I was able to meet some of the Fifth Street board members. They said how much they liked the beer, commented on Todd's brewing talent and added, they didn't know the lung cancer back story until after Lisa's Luck won the competition.

It was meant to be.

During the event I was able to share my story and make an announcement that I will be entering the Team Draft Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge this winter. This is a friendly competition among football fans that are surviving lung cancer while raising funds for lung cancer research. First place is a trip to the Super Bowl. Second is a trip to the Pro Bowl. Third place is a trip to The Taste of NFL.

Proceeds from the Fifth Street Lisa's Luck Amber Ale event will be the first donations to my Cleveland Fans Against Lung Cancer Campaign. The beneficiary of my donations will be the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.

Lisa's Luck Amber Ale is now available, for a limited time, at two Dayton area locations, Fifth Street Brew Pub in Dayton, OH and Sea Jax Tavern, in Kettering, OH. We heard news of interest from another Dayton area brew pub also.

What's better than drinking great tasting beer? Drinking great tasting beer for a great cause!

How Lucky Am I?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Ones That Give Me Hope

Earlier this month I attended the GRACE Targeted Therapies in Lung Cancer Patients Forum in Denver, CO. It was a one day conference focusing on lung cancer treatments for patients with genetic mutations, like me.
Lisa Moran at GRACE Targeted Therapies
in Lung Cancer Patients Forum, August 20, 2016
While learning a few new things, I realized I already know a lot there is to know about my disease. Early on I found out that I must be my own patient advocate. The conference was full of other self educated, lung cancer patient advocates.

I was lucky enough to spend some time outside of the forum with these lung cancer patients. I said before that lung cancer was like a sorority that I didn't ask to be a member of. But this lung cancer community is more like a supportive family that I wouldn't want to be without. I learned just as much as about my disease at dinner than at the forum.
Lung cancer patients and family members at dinner
Holding up fingers for number of years we've been surviving lung cancer.
Bottom left: Linnea Olson had to borrow a finger from her son for 11 yrs.
When I first spoke to my lung cancer friend, Mara, on the phone, it was like we were old friends catching up. We had never met. But we had this common ground, kinship, and bond already.

I felt the same way when I met Linnea Olson at dinner after the forum. I was familiar with her. I had seen her profile photos and read about her online.
Linnea Olson, diagnosed with lung cancer 11 years ago
I now know what her profile photos sound like. Her laughter and zest for life are contagious. We shared the biggest, (maybe) too loud for a hotel restaurant, belly laugh at my expense. It was our own "Who's On First?" moment. I was racking my brain trying to remember a session from earlier in the day. Linnea said, "Chemo brain." I agreed and added something about how frustrating it is to have moments when I can't remember things. Turns out the session I couldn't recall was called 'Combating Chemo Brain'.
Linnea Olson and Lisa Moran, August 20, 2016
I wondered what the female version of The Godfather was. I almost felt like I should kiss Linnea's ring. I guess she's the Matriarch of lung cancer? But seriously, she is a remarkable woman, a pioneer in lung cancer research and a true inspiration to me and many others.

Recently the ASCO Post (American Society of  Oncology) published an article featuring Linnea Olson, her lung cancer story and her outlook on the future.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Year Ago Today...August 21, 2015

One Year ago today I had my first surgical procedure. My PET scan showed multiple, multiple, tiny, star like nodules throughout both of my lungs. This was discussed at my cancer center's tumor board. A tumor board is a panel of oncologists, thoracic surgeons, radiology oncologists and others involved in diagnosing and treating cancer. My tumor board could not come to an agreement about my scan. It was inconclusive. The star like nodules could either be an infection, I had already tested negative for tuberculosis, or it could be cancer that had spread from the main lung tumor in my upper right lobe.

Until this point, the my biggest medical procedure was my bronchoscopy. I was scared. I've never been under anesthesia before. It was very early in the morning. My boyfriend, Jeremy, my mother and I were driving to the hospital. I had my usual satellite radio station playing, 50's on 5. We're pulling into the hospital. I'm thinking all the scary, anxious, thoughts any normal person that has never had surgery would have. And this song comes on while we are parking the car.
The first thing that comes to my mind is, of all the fabulous fifties songs, THIS will be my last song I ever hear if I don't make it out of surgery!!!???!!!!

Don't worry. I pulled through. 

Just as before, the staff were more than considerate when I voiced my fears of medical procedures while they were wheeling me into the surgery room. One man told me not to worry and to think of it as a day at the spa. I must have been the first to reply with, "I didn't pick out my nail polish color yet." I made myself laugh. He was not amused. 

My next memory is waking up in the recovery room. Of course, my first surgery experience wouldn't be typical. I got used to that recovery room. I was there the entire day. I was supposed to be moved to a hospital room. But there were no rooms at the inn that day.

It felt like it was almost immediately after coming out of the anesthesia that I was told that the stars were cancer. I remember speaking with my mom and Jeremy over the phone because I was still in a recovery area they were not allowed in.  They moved me off to a corner and as out of the way as possible. But at least at that point Jeremy and my mom were able to come back to see me.

After several, long, hours and being moved one more time, I was released to go home to my three week recovery period.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Just My Luck

Since my lung cancer diagnosis there has never been, why me? When talking about my lung cancer, the words, luck and lucky have come up over and over.
  • How lucky am I to have a genetic mutation?
  • How lucky am I to live in Colorado, so close to UC Denver Anschutz Cancer Pavilion and possibly the best lung cancer doctors in the world?
  • What luck to be diagnosed just weeks before the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Denver and I was able to register and attend a session.
  • How lucky am I to have a beer dedicated to me and brewed in my honor?
That's right! My own beer! My friend, Todd, is behind this. He made a home brew. I taste tested it in April 2016 during a visit to Ohio. That is when the beer was, I don't know how to say it, 'gifted' to me. He said he wanted me to name it. He would brew the beer in my honor and portions of the proceeds would go to lung cancer awareness and research fundraising. After some brainstorming, we had a name. Lisa's Luck Amber Ale was created.

Todd entered Lisa's Luck in a brewing contest. He won! Fifth Street Brewpub in Dayton, OH is brewing 14 kegs of Lisa's Luck Amber Ale. It will be available on tap mid September.

Todd brewing the first batch of Lisa's Luck Amber Ale
at Fifth Street Brewpub on August 18, 2016

The beer will make it's debut at the Lisa's Luck Tapping Party and fundraising event on September 17, 2016.
Click HERE for details and to RSVP.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Stage IV Lung Cancer/One Year Ago Today...August 14, 2015

One year ago today Jeremy and I went to the appointment to get the results from my pet scan. We scheduled it for lunch time. We had plans to break off of work, go to the appointment, get the info and plan of action and return to work.

With the ct scan only, we knew there was a large tumor in my upper right lobe and I was a good candidate for surgery. We thought we were going to find out when my surgery would be scheduled and what the recovery time would be. We got some very different and shocking information...


We did not return to work. That wasn't what we had prepared ourselves for.
Lisa's 8/14/2015 Facebook post, hours after diagnosis

Not many stage iv lung cancer survivors get to celebrate a one year CANCERversary.

I got to have one hell of a celebration last night.
F*ck lung cancer with LessThan Zero
at the 1 Year CANCERversary Party
Lisa doesn't play bass, but looked the part
while sharing her lung cancer story.

Lisa and Jeremy
I'm sure that out of the ones that get to celebrate the one year mark, not many are NED, like me.

I did not beat lung cancer. I am not cured. I don't get to celebrate winning. I celebrate surviving. My fight is ongoing and has no end.

I would love to say I'm no different than I was a year ago. But so many things have changed.
I've lost:
  • Energy
  • Half of my hair
  • My complexion
  • Friendships
  • A year of exercise and running
  • Fears
  • Life as I knew it
But I've Gained:
  • A new appreciation of life that I think I could I have only achieved by facing the possibly of death head on
  • Friendships
  • Fears
  • New traditions
  • New motto: No missed opportunities...When you have a 4 hour layover in Utah. Don't sit in the airport. Jump in an Uber and track down the best burger in Salt Lake City.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

One Year Ago Today...August 11, 2015

One year ago today I was in the pulmonologist office with my mom. I heard the words nobody wants to hear. It was confirmed. I had non small cell, adenocarcinoma, lung cancer. I had the doctor write out the word, ADENOCARCINOMA.

I asked the doctor what caused my cancer. He said they don't know. But said that it probably wasn't my smoking in my teens and 20's. I was never a heavy smoker and I quit 14 years before my diagnosis. But added that smoking did raise my risks of getting any type of cancer.

Ok. So what do we do about it? At the time the only scan I had was a ct scan. From the ct scan the cancer appeared to be one large tumor in my upper right lobe. If that was it, I was a good candidate for surgery. I was ready to get this thing out of my body, asap! But I needed a pet scan to see just how active the cancer was. At the end of this appointment, the plan was, pet scan first and we would schedule surgery from there.

At this point, things didn't seem grim. I mean, nobody wants to hear they have lung cancer, or any type of cancer. But we had a plan in place, I wanted to get this tumor out of me.

I allowed myself to start my Google searches. I had a diagnosis. I knew what to research.
I can't remember all off the sites my searches took me to. But I remember while I was looking at the search results and realizing things could be grim. But that wasn't me. That's not my case. I have a plan. I'm just going to have surgery and possibly follow up chemo or radiation and I was going to be cured.

Three days later I would find out we were going to need a Plan B.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

It Takes A Village

I hope I don't forget anyone. I want to give a shout out to everyone that has had a hand in my diagnosis, treatment and quality of life over this last year.

First, my family and friends. This has been quite a year. And if I needed anything, you were there. Most of you dropped your personal life to be by my side. Thank you and I love you.

Again, I will edit this post and add to this list of I realize I forgot anyone.

Colorado Springs Family Practice
C. David Bird, MD

Pulmonary Associates
Steven Mohnssen, MD

Memorial Hospital Cancer Center
Lisa Allison, Nurse Navigator
Sayla Dennington, Social Worker
Victoria Cortez
Dr. Blum
Dr. Ridings

Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation

International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer

#LCSM Chat

American Lung Association in Colorado
Lung Force

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus
D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD


Livestrong at the YMCA

Team Draft
Chris Draft

In addition to this list, I want to acknowledge and thank my online support groups and lung cancer message boards. I won't list them, because I know I won't remember all the sites. Also, some of the groups are private. They are with me 24/7.

I can't imagine having lung cancer and going through this before social media. This lung cancer community has answered many questions, given plenty of advice, calmed many anxieties and raised my hopes.

Team Peace Lungs & Happiness was created just days after my diagnosis. I immediately had this sense of love that embraced me from all over the world. Team PLH is a global effort. I can't thank my family and friends enough for all your thoughts, prayers and support. Thank you for sharing my story with so many of your friends, colleagues and church congregations while calling on them to send me good thoughts and prayers. The power of positive thinking and prayer is a wonderful thing. Get ready for some exciting Team PLH announcements in the coming months.

The one person that has kept me together the most over the last year is my boyfriend, Jeremy. I say, "when we got lung cancer". I'm the one that has to go through the medical procedures, but we are in this thing together. He has been my rock, sounding board, counselor, doctor, voice of reason and shoulder to cry on. If we made it through the last 12 months, we can endure anything. He's a keeper.

There are no words for me to use that can thank the above people and organizations enough. Keep doing what you do so I can continue to live the greatest, happiest, longest, life possible.

You all bring me Peace Lungs & Happiness every day!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

One Year Ago Today...August 4, 2015

One year ago today I had the biggest medical procedure I had ever had, up to that point. August 4, 2015 was my bronchoscopy. This is a scope biopsy to get tissue from my largest lung tumor for testing.

I remember some things about that day. To say I was scared is an understatement. I had avoided all things medical my whole life. I do remember the nurse who was in charge of getting me prepped for the procedure. She made things a little easier after I told her why I was so scared.

It's funny how the mind works. Of all the things I should remember from that day, I remember the shoes I had on. They were my new Keds. I bought them that summer and only really worn them with my retro outfit I sewed for the Brian Setzer concert several weeks before. I called them my "cute shoes".
Brian Setzer concert, Hudson Gardens Event Center, June 14, 2015
While I was laying in the bed, scared, I would look down at my shoes and remember how much fun Jeremy and I had at the concert. And I thought about how I felt that day in my retro dress with my cute shoes.

I remember being in the biopsy room. The Drs. and I looked at my CT scan together. We discussed why I was having the procedure. I was given a sedative and someone either said I would smell or I would taste something bad. The next thing I know, I was back in the first room with the nurse and my mom.

I know someone from pathology looked at the biopsy that day, immediately after the procedure. Someone told my mom that it looked like cancer. They would send it off for testing and it would be several days before we would receive a confirmation.

I know my mom told me this news at some point that day. I don't know if it was the sedatives and my selective memory. I can't remember that exact conversation or the location of the conversation. Was I still in recovery? Were we in the car on the way home? Or was I at home?

I do know that I stayed off the Google searches. I didn't want to waste time searching for ailments and diseases I may or may not have. I waited to Google until the biopsy results came back and were official.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Cough Equals A Dark Cloud of Doubt

Yesterday was my 3 month PET scan. I had the usual scan anxiety. But the rational part of my brain was trying to rule my thoughts to a good outcome. I've been feeling great. Two weeks ago, I even had my best mental and physical day of the last 12 months. I had no pain. I had energy. I was feeling good. I even had thoughts of, it could be possible to have many, or most of my days, pain free and without a care.
Encourage your hopes / Not your fears
But then I crashed. I felt like I was getting sick. I never did get full on sick. I did get a cough. At first it was annoying. But this last weekend and the beginning of this week it was bad with congestion. I decided not to wait until my already scheduled appointment to report my cough. I called the Dr. on Monday.  They said it probably was just the start of an upper respiratory infection and called in an antibiotic prescription for me.  
The combo of not feeling 100%, anxiety about my scan and the sound of my horrible cough got me down. I just needed that cough and my fears to go away!!!!
How do you overcome the fear of the unknown?

The bracelet in the photo was given to me by an acquaintance that is a pancreatic cancer survivor. I don't wear it all the time. But I put it on when I feel the fears overpowering the hopes. I wore it yesterday.

The scan results reflected how I was feeling before the cough set in. No active cancer is visible on my PET scan! There will be no changes in my current treatment plan. You don't fix something that isn't broken.

My next set of follow up scans will be at the end of October, 2016. Instead of a, more detailed, PET scan, it will be a CT scan with contrast. I will also have a brain MRI. This is just a routine one year scan. There is no current reason or concern that requires an MRI.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

One Year Ago Today...July 24, 2015

One year ago today the Uncle Samta windsock was hung with care and the first toy donation was under the tree. I had last minute preparations to complete for our Christmas in July party that was scheduled for the next day.

One other thing I had to do that day was get a CT scan. This was the next step after something cloudy showed up on an xray two weeks before. I was to get the scan and have a follow up office appointment, a week or two later, with my primary care physician, Dr. Bird. I never expected a follow up phone call within hours of my scan appointment.

It was Dr. Bird. I can't remember the words he said. Whatever it was it sounded serious enough for me to grab the nearest pen and piece of paper and started writing words and notes from our conversation.
For other breathing issues I had a CT scan in 2008. So we had a baseline to compare to. When referring to my upper right lobe he used the words, mass and slow growing neoplasm. There were spots and nodules throughout both of my lungs. The nodules looked like an infection in the scan. I had been tested for TB. But it was days before we had the final results. There was a possibility I had tuberculosis. But I hadn't been out of the country or around anyone with TB. I discussed the party with Dr. Bird. I didn't want to spread an infection to my family and friends. And I didn't want to cancel the day before. He suggested I cancel the party. But if I decided to still have the party, I needed to keep my distance, wear a mask and not cough near anyone in case this was an infection. He referred me to a pulmonologist for the next test, a bronchoscopy, scope biopsy, to determine if the neoplasm was benign or malignant.

I had never heard the word, neoplasm. So I went to the internet to look up the definition. 
It was the the first time the word cancer had come up. I decided to stay away from the internet research until we knew exactly what we were dealing with. I didn't want to waste time and energy researching anything that didn't pertain to me and my condition.

I decided the show must go on. I didn't cancel the party. I didn't wear a mask. I had been around so many people at home and work. There was no way I had a contagious infection. Someone would have caught it by that point. We had fun, drinks and laughs that night. And we collected a bunch of toys for the Bob Telmosse Christmas Giveaway.
It was a good time and a much needed distraction that weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Countdown to August 1, 2016

I will be released for all physical activities as of August 1. It just so happens to also be World Lung Cancer Day.
I am currently able to participate in low impact activities. After August 1 I'll be allowed to run again. I plan on running at least 1 mile symbolic run on August 1.

This was Week One of my Livestrong at the Y sessions. I'm so excited to get back to working out again. With the program my boyfriend/caregiver and I get free YMCA memberships to use anytime during the 12 week program.
Lisa Moran ready for Livestrong at the Y, June 11, 2016
I went to my first spinning class in a year. It was actually my first fitness class in a year. I have to admit, I got very emotional during the class. I was there, working out, just like before I got sick. I was there, working out! It was just like old times. I even had one of my dearest gym friends by my side. My friend, John, works out at the Y. We used to work out together in group fitness classes at Bally's and have known each other for over 10 years. 

During my spin class I got emotional thinking about being able to do the things I love again. I also thought of an online lung cancer connection, Don Stranathan. He is a seven year stage iv lung cancer survivor.  For several months I've followed his posts about going to his spin classes. His posts have been so inspirational and motivational. Thank you, Don.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

One Year Ago Today...July 9, 2015

This is the first in a series of, "One Year Ago Today" posts.

One year ago today, on July 9, 2015, I met the man that ultimately saved my life.  One year ago today was my first appointment with my (then first and new) primary care physician, Dr. C. David Bird.

I explained to him I was having some shortness of breath and a persistent cough. I told him of my intermittent breathing problems and my brief, two appointment, history of going to two different urgent care type facilities and being told told, both times, (Dec 2014, June 2015) that my lungs sounded clear, when obviously to me they didn't feel clear.

At my Dr. Bird appointment I had an xray. That xray showed something in my upper lobe of my right lung. Dr. Bird said, although it may be the cause of my breathing problems, an xray wasn't enough to go on. He ordered a follow up CT Scan. The rest is history.

Why is it important to have a primary care physician? For me more frequent check ups, with one doctor, may have meant an earlier detection, possibly before a stage iv, inoperable, lung cancer diagnosis.

December 2014, I went to an urgent care type facility with what I thought was bronchitis. I was told my lungs sounded clear and my cough was from post nasal drip. Now, at the time I did have a terrible head cold. But at the appointment I made it a point to tell them that I coughed constantly, even without the head cold. I remember saying, "Jeremy says I cough all the time." No xray, no additional questions about my cough, no follow up suggested. I was given sinus meds to clear my head and sent on my way, like every other person with a head cold and post nasal drip that winter.

Fast forward to June 2015. Again, I thought I had bronchitis. I went to a different urgent care type facility. I told this Dr. that I felt like I had bronchitis and I coughed blood one time. I was told my lungs sounded clear and I had the tail end of a virus that was going around. No xray, no additional questions about my coughing blood, no follow up suggested. It really was one time, one cough, but I COUGHED BLOOD! I was given cough medicine and sent on my way, like every other person with that virus last summer.

It's so frustrating to think about stage iv lung cancer having the same symptoms of other, easy to fix, ailments.  It's also frustrating to think about the in and out exam offices and the lack of attention to individual patients. Or is it the lack of lung cancer education in the medical community altogether?

I owe my life to Dr. Bird.  Dr. Bird, a physician that listened to me and followed through until we knew exactly what we were dealing with.

One year ago today my life changed completely. It was just a few weeks later I would find out exactly how much it was going to change.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The F Word(s)

The 4th of July has been one of my top holidays. We will be celebrating the 4th on the 3rd this year. Today's activities will include family, food, a festival, friends, fun and fireworks. Some of my favorite F words!  Be safe everyone and enjoy your holiday weekend.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Peace Lungs and Football

I ran into an old gym friend and postal customer this week while I was at work. It had been over a year since we last spoke.  He asked how I was doing.  I said I was fine but followed with, "You won't believe what happened to me. I still can't believe it myself." I proceeded to give him my most condensed version of my lung cancer story. I've got it down to a few sentences for situations like this.

"In August 2015 I was diagnosed stage iv lung cancer. My cancer has a specific genetic mutation. My chemo is a pill. My last scan showed no evidence of disease. I love my job, so I'm still working and things are going well."

I'm very public with my story on Facebook, Twitter and this blog.  My co-workers know about my lung cancer. Delivering mail is one of the few things I have that isn't connected to lung cancer and being sick. I've been very selective in telling only a handful of customers about my diagnosis. But the very few that do know are now my biggest cheerleaders. I know it's no coincidence that the people I chose were either a cancer survivor themselves, had a personal connection to lung cancer or had a close family member diagnosed with cancer after I shared my story.
I've had the privilege to publicly share my lung cancer story two times this month. The first was at the Denver Lung Force Walk. It was such an honor to share my story along with three other Lung Force Heroes. Every story you hear starts with the initial lung cancer diagnosis shock and continues with courage, bravery, inspiration and hope.
I was a member of the Lung Force Walk Committee. This was my first time volunteering on the committee. It was exciting to help plan and be behind the scenes of such a successful event.  Thank you to everyone that participated and donated. We exceeded our fundraising goal by raising over $40,000!!!
On June 17, 2016 I shared my lung cancer story at the Patient Advocate Breakfast at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer.
Patient Advocate Speakers with IASLC staff

At the breakfast I heard the perspective of lung cancer from a 10 year old boy, Coy, who's mother, Kathy Weber, is a lung cancer survivor. If that doesn't hit you in the heart, I don't know what will. Kathy and Coy also spoke of their Pro Bowl experience. Kathy was the second highest fundraiser for last year's Team Draft Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge. Kathy and her family won a trip to the Pro Bowl. I've been interested in this contest since the first time I heard of it.
Football and the Cleveland Browns have been a big part of my life. Even more so this last year. I received my lung cancer diagnosis during the NFL 2015/16 preseason. Jeremy and I attended the first preseason game together. At that point we knew I had non small cell, adenocarcinoma.

Browns preseason game, August 13, 2015
The next afternoon was the appointment when we found out it was stage iv. The Cleveland Browns and the Pikes Peak Browns Backers were there for me each week during the first couple months of testing to getting my full diagnosis and adjusting to my radiation and targeted therapy treatments. At the time I was scared to make plans and go places. I called going to games my "Football Therapy". Watching the Browns is not so therapeutic for my blood pressure.  But it felt good to get up and out of the house each Sunday. Treatment could take my energy. But it was NOT going to take away my Browns.
Another speaker at the breakfast was Chris Draft, founder of the Chris Draft Family Foundation and Co-founder of Team Draft. Chris' wife, Keasha Rutledge Draft, lost her life to lung cancer in 2011. He is my lung cancer advocacy and fundraising hero. I didn't hesitate to tell him either.  He's an inspiration to me to continue to raise funds and to share my story as often and as loudly as possible while spreading lung cancer awareness.

Friday, June 17, 2016

The Best Laid Plans...

I've had an online friend for 15 years.  Her name is Mary. She lives on the east coast. We have common interests and and a common sense of humor.  Fitness is one those interests. Last year we decided that we would plan a trip to meet for the first time and we would run a 5k together.
That meeting took place last week. The plan to meet Mary was the last thing I had left of my life before lung cancer. So her visit was extra special.
She walked with me at the Denver Lung Force Walk on June 11. That was a 1/2 mile course. (I'll blog about the Walk in a different post.) That evening we went to Mile High Stadium for the Broncos Stadium Challenge 5k. 
I'm on some physical/exercise restrictions since my spine is still healing from my radiation treatment and from having the spinal tumor all together.  We went through the obstacle course.  Because of my restrictions I skipped a couple obstacles and I modified another. But I finished along side my good friend, Mary.
We started walking our 5k, the reason for her trip to Colorado. Before we could get to the point of the route where we would enter the stadium, be on the jumbo tron and have our photo taken, a lightening storm started. Our route was diverted to a weather safety shelter area on Concourse 9. We waited as long as we could. But hunger won and we left without finishing the 5k. A few minutes later we found out it was officially called off.  

The next day we had plans to go to the summit house at the top of Pikes Peak.  We almost  made it there.  But my car stalled a couple times from the altitude on the Pikes Peak Highway. It started up and we made the decision to skip the summit and turn around.  

Do you see a pattern here?  Even when things didn't go as planned, we still had a great time.  I can't thank Mary enough for her friendship and for visiting me.  I can't wait until the time she can return to Colorado and we can try to complete another 5k and maybe take the Cog Railway to the top of Pikes Peak.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Here's to the First Day of the Rest of My Life

It's so hard, mentally, to switch my targeted therapy, chemo pill.  I know the first pill is what helped shrink my tumors and nodules to nothing.  But physically, I have been uncomfortable and in pain.  Physically, that old pill can go away and never return.

Leave it to me to be the only person on record to have the muscle aches, tightness, fatigue and pains that have occurred as a side effect of Tarceva.
This is my current alternative.  Iressa. My new pills arrived last night.  It came with this file box with a very inspirational quote and a pretty decent looking cancer cookbook.

My oncologist described the change like going from Pepsi to Coke.  It's more than likely if I don't have GI issues with Tarceva, I may not with Iressa.  I took my first dose before bed. Let's just say, I'm noticing a slight side effect this morning.  But I would think that's expected anyway when switching meds. All in all, so far, so good.

On the plus side(s), I can take it with or without food.  No more waiting 2+ hours after eating to take my pill.  I don't have to to avoid the sun, which has been a challenge with an outdoor job. No more staying covered and out of the sun. I'm going to give it a couple days to get the Tarceva out of my system.  But I can't wait to be outside in shorts and short sleeves again.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

T-Minus 10 Days and Counting

Join us for the Lung Force Walk at Centennial Center Park, Centennial, CO on June 11.

I'm excited about he upcoming Denver Lung Force Walk.  I was able to help brainstorm and plan the event while volunteering on the Walk Committee.  We have a $40,000 fundraising goal for this event. This is much needed funds for lung cancer awareness education and research.

Before the walk I will be sharing my lung cancer story along with other Lung Force Heroes. It's amazing to hear these stories of otherwise healthy, active, never smokers and non smoking women that have been diagnosed with lung cancer.

While we gather, walk and celebrate surviving life with lung cancer we will also be walking in memory of those that we've lost to this most deadly of all cancers.