Friday, November 30, 2018

End of the Year Recap 2018

Nov. 30, 2018

Since returning home in January after my stroke, I work on cognitive thinking and memory therapies every day.  I continued to make improvements throughout the year.

Being off of work and at home, we decided it was a good time to get a dog.   We rescued an 8 week old black lab mix girl named Laynie on May 1. She keeps me on my toes and keeps me on a schedule.  Both are good for my stroke recovery.
Adoption day for Laynie May.
When she first got to our house it was almost like both of us were learning and resting at the same level and at the same pace.  We would go for a walk and both run out of energy and slow down at the same time.  We would get home and both of us would nap.  We gradually increased our exercise time and kept on napping when needed.

The summer was filled with long walks in the neighborhood with Laynie.  While I was preparing for this year's Run the Rocks, she was a growing dog and needed to work off that extra puppy energy.

I completed the Run the Rocks 5k on October 21.  I shared my story of being diagnosed with stage iv lung cancer and how much the Run the Rocks 5k means to me.  It's a yearly milestone to celebrate living another year with terminal lung cancer.  This year was even more special after surviving the stroke and walking without using a cane for balance 

Run the Rocks is the most physically challenging 5k I've ever done.  I was determined to complete the 5k this year.  It was my 4th time participating in this event.  Out of all 4 years,  this year,  by far,  was the hardest to complete.  Of everything involved with my Medical Apocalypse, I think it was just athe combination of lung cancer, moyamoya and recovering from the stroke that made it so difficult this year.  
Lisa Moran speaking at Run the Rocks

Run the Rocks finish line.

The Pikes Peak Browns Backers hosted a Whiteout Game for Lung Cancer Awareness at the beginning of November for Lung Cancer Awareness Month.  It was a great event with many club members participating and wearing white.  I shared my lung cancer story at this event as well. 


Pikes Peak Browns Backers Support Lung Cancer Awareness


I ended the fall with a trip to Mayo Clinic in AZ.  I never got my 6 month Moyamoya bypass surgery follow up scheduled with Stanford University Hospital.  That's a whole other blog post in itself.  I was concerned about disease progression and wanted to verify the bypass was holding up. 

My first trip to Mayo was a series of meetings, tests and scans.  I met with my new neurosurgeon.  We discussed what led to my initial Moyamoya diagnosis,  my current symptoms and the tests that would follow that appointment.

I'm not hearing often.  If I am occupied by watching a show or reading a news story  I just don't hear when Jeremy speaks to me.  I had a hearing test to verify if it's my ears not hearing or if it's my brain.   Good news, my brain is hearing and processing well.  Bad news,  I'm just hard of hearing.  (Thanks Tesla.)

I have been experiencing numbness in my right leg and foot.  That side was not effected by the stroke.  I had MRIs and MRAs of my head,  neck and spine to rule ot any neurological causes.  

Good news, I have not had any new strokes!  I have good blood flow from the direct right carotid artery bypass.  The left side looks still looks good.

The areas of numbness may have to do with my spine.  L5  is where the lung cancer tumor was and where I had radiation.  Because it is not brain related,  it may be spinal damage from the radiation or possibly cancer activity.  They couldn't rule cancer in or out by an MRI.  I have a CT scan and lab work in a couple weeks.  If my lung cancer biomarker numbers are elevated,  I'll get a PET scan from there. 

I was the 2nd participant in a Whole Exome Seqencing research study on Moyamoya Disease at Mayo Clinic.  They are testing Moyamoya patients to see if there is a common denominator.  They are also researching to see if there are  specific gene mutations that cause Moyamoya.  Im anxious to find out if I have a known Moyamoya gene mutation.  We already know I have two gene mutations driving my lung cancer.

2019 is just around the corner.  I can't wait to see what the new year brings my way.   I know one new endeavor is in the works.  I've been considering this for some time; I'm going to start writing articles for lungcancer.net.  I will continue to write for this blog and I will share my lungcancer.net articles here.  Im excited to get started.   You will know here as soon as my first article is published. 










Thursday, November 15, 2018

A Lung Cancer Diagnosis

November 2018: I have posted about my different diagnoses throughout this blog. It's been a while since I've posted about being diagnosed with lung cancer.

It all started three years ago in August 2015.  I was in the first years of a serious relationship with my boyfriend, Jeremy.  We were passed that milestone moment when you realize your significant other is your forever person.  We were planning our future together and talking about getting married.

It was also the beginning of my career as a letter carrier.  By choice, I was on walking routes. I was walking approximately 35-40 miles a week.  I would walk anywhere from 6 to 12+ miles a day. Carrying mail was more than a job. It was my career and my passion.

I would run at least one 5k (3.1 miles) a week after work with my runner's club.  I was enjoying running for the first time in my life. There were times I'd run two or three 5k's in a week.  Running wasn't just the annual 5k for charity any more.

As active and healthy as I was, I had a persistent cough and some random breathing issues.  There were a few times between late 2014 and July 2015 that I felt a heaviness in my chest, something similar to bronchitis. Each time there seemed to be an acceptable explanation (post nasal drip, virus) to justify the breathing problems.   It didn't seem too serious at the time.

When breathing issues interfered with exercising and running, I decided to get things checked out. I went to  a doctor for my breathing problems.  I had a chest x-ray. The result...a mass in my right lung.  Further testing revealed a devastating diagnosis.

We heard the words, “inoperable”, “incurable”, “terminal”.  What seemed to be minor turned out to be inoperable, incurable, stage iv lung cancer.  It was late stage, stage 4, non small cell lung cancer. At the time of diagnosis, lung cancer had already spread throughout both lungs and to my spine.  

I asked:
  • How long to I have to live?
  • How did I get lung cancer?
  • What do I do now?

Statistics said I had a 3 to 5% chance of living one year.  Lung cancer in young healthy adults, especially women, was on the rise.  My lung cancer is caused by the EGFR gene mutation. It’s not genetic or something I inherited from my parents. It’s genomic, something in my DNA has changed and mutated.

The mutation meant I would have targeted therapy treatment instead of iv chemo.
Days before we heard, “incurable” and “terminal”.  Now we heard something promising. I had a chance at living a normal life.  It’s almost like, “normal life” echoed as it came out of my nurse navigator’s mouth.

Over the years my treatments have been targeted therapies and radiation treatments to my lung and spine.  I take a chemo pill once a day that targets the mutation that is driving my cancer.

I was able to stay at work and continued living my active otherwise healthy life. Things were as normal as they could be with quarterly PET scans thrown in to monitor disease progression. Or in my case, we watched tumors and nodules shrink and disappear. the targeted therapy did it's job. I was No Evidence of Disease within 8 months.

Our moment of relief lasted 6 months. Then the nodules and tumors returned in my lungs. We monitored that growth for 10 months. In the mean time I had a bronchoscopy biopsy to test for a new mutation. I switched targeted therapies because I tested positive for the t790m mutation.

Life is back to normal, for now. Well, as normal as it can be with quarterly scans and blood labs thrown in to monitor for disease progression.

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