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.