Leanne Clark

First post: Feb 13, 2019 Latest post: Dec 20, 2021
It's hard to believe my mom's journey began almost a year ago and that she has been through so much thus far.  Her journey started with a chest x-ray after a battle with pneumonia where her doctor found 2 spots on her right lung.  She was referred to an Oncologist who did a CT scan on April 3, 2018 to see the density of the tumors that she suspected were probably lung cancer and a biopsy was scheduled. The Oncologist explained that if both tumors in her lung were malignant, mom would be staged at a 3A, they would need to be surgically removed and she would have follow-up CT scans about every 6 months. Mom also had a PET scan which showed something in her stomach the Oncologist felt was non-cancerous. Whew, a little bit of good news. The biopsy results confirmed mom had non-small cell lung cancer. That dreaded "C" word is spoken and you go numb. When we left the Oncologist's office, we realized mom just boarded the roller-coaster journey of cancer.

Mom had lung surgery on July 23rd to remove half of her upper lobe and the entire lower lobe of her right lung. At her follow-up appointment the surgeon explained that they had "clear margins" (got all the cancerous tissue,) there was no cancer found in her lymph nodes and she was "good to go." In mom's mind, he just said she was cancer free! The Oncologist had a slightly different view having staged her at a 3A because she not only had 2 tumors in the same lung but one of the tumors had almost penetrated the outer layer of the lung. What her Oncologist didn't explain very well was that with cancer, you can go into remission, but mom was not "cancer free."

The next decision was to find out more about this stomach tumor she had. Two biopsies were performed on the tumor to confirm that it was a Gyst and not malignant (but still in the cancer family!) Due to the size of the tumor (2.5 cm) and the fact she had a few instances of inflammation, she had surgery to remove it in October.  The Oncologist called to inform mom she had the option of Chemotherapy treatment and it would increase her chances of non-recurrence of lung cancer from 40% to 45% but she would experience vomiting and hair loss. Let's see....a 5% increase in non-recurrence with vomiting and hair loss? She declined.

This January the Oncologist called mom to schedule a follow-up CT scan. It was 6 months since her lung surgery after all. We had no idea the bomb that was about to be dropped. Several spots were found on her bones. Excuse me, could you repeat that?! One on her right, rear pelvic bone (Iliac) and one on her spine (T12) just below the last rib. I was shocked at not only this new development but that mom was alone when her Oncologist gave her the shocking news. Two weeks later mom and I returned to the Oncologist. I had dissected the CT report they gave her and my "guns were blazing" with questions. Her Oncologist showed us the scans, pointing out the two primary spots found and compared them to her CT scan of April 4th. These spots were the size of a pencil tip, barely able to be seen on April 3rd. As you age it is not uncommon to see scratches, small hardened spots, worn joints on bones. What's not common is that these spots grow. Mom was diagnosed with Metastatic Lung Cancer.

Metastatic Lung Cancer to the bone is lung cancer cells that broke away from her lung tumors, traveled through her body and attached themselves to her bones. There were 3 DNA tests (markers) done on the lung cancer cells to determine the best form of treatment. She had her first treatment of Keytruda last Tuesday. Keytruda is the first immunotherapy to be approved as the first line of defense in lung cancer. One of her markers tested 91% positive for PD-L1. The cancer cells use the PD-L1 pathway to hide from your own immune system T cells. Keytruda blocks this PD-L1 pathway to allow your own immune system to attack and wipe out the cancer cells. Traditional chemotherapy treatment is 30% successful against lung cancer but Keytruda is 45% successful at stopping the progression of cancer growth. Keytruda has been used as a second line of defense since 1999, but as a first line of defense only since 2017.

I told mom that the best path to healing is prayer, faith, and positive thought. Only the Lord knows our path and we do not get to choose our beginning or our end. We just have to have faith that there is a reason for both. Her journey is in His hands. 

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