Susan Ayers

First post: Feb 25, 2022 Latest post: May 7, 2022

Welcome to this CaringBridge website. We are using it to keep family and friends updated in one place. We appreciate your support and words of hope and encouragement. Thank you for visiting.  This is how our story started.

David and I were planning our annual winter get-a-way in January.  We were returning to Belize for about a month and were extra excited because our son, Jake and niece Betsy, were joining us for the first week.  I had an appointment with my rheumatology provider for my rheumatoid arthritis early in January.  During my visit I told here that i was having shortness of breath and she asked for how long.  I told her that I had mentioned it at my last physical in April of 2021 but I had a chest x-ray at that time that was read as normal.  She ordered pulmonary studies and a repeat chest X-ray.  The repeat X-ray showed a nodule in the right upper lobe of my lung suggestive of neoplasm.  So then a CT scan was ordered.  That was done on Wed. Jan 19.  On Fri. Jan 21 at 4:30 PM, I received a phone call stating that the nodule visualized with the CT showed cancer and that I needed immediate medical follow-up.  I asked about our vacation and even only staying a week and was told that the pulmonologist, radiologist, and herself would not recommend waiting at all.  So we cancelled our trip and Monday we were off to the rheumatologist instead of hopping on a plane to the tropics.

Dr. Al Khateeb was such a kind and respectful gentleman who took all the time in the world educating David and I regarding what was happening.  He showed us the CT and the area of concern.  I asked when this had started because I had had a chest X-ray less than a year ago with my regular healthcare provider that was normal.  He requested this X-ray from the other hospital and reviewed it and stated that it was visible last April and was not read correctly.  So now the nodule was larger and more dense.  He recommended a bronchoscopy because there were some lymph nodes that were also unusual.  So later that week I had this procedure and he took 15 samples of bronchial washings, several close to the affected lymph nodes.  These all came back benign (wahoo).  So, then I needed to have a right lung biopsy to confirm the cancer and determine the type.  That was completed and showed non-small cell squamous cell lung cancer.      

At this point, we thought I would be having a lobectomy on the right and that would be it.  To make sure there was no spread to other organs, I had a PET scan from the top of my head to mid-thigh.  There were no areas of concern in other organs, BUT, there was a very small area of concern on the left lower lobe, immediately proximal to my aorta.  So then I had to have a left lung biopsy.  This small area was also malignant but lab tests were inconclusive as to whether it was a new spot or spread.  This meant that surgery was no longer an option.

Last Wed, Feb 23, David and I went to the Cancer Center in Mason City.  I have to tell you that it warmed my heart to walk into the reception area and see a display above a beautiful fire feature that stated this center was made possible in part by the OJ Thomsen Family Foundation.  Just another reason to appreciate Pat and OJ.  But it's nice to see a familiar name in this setting.  We were scheduled to see 2 specialists.  Dr. Ehrlich was our oncologist.  He told me that their Tumor Board had reviewed my case and that I had Stage 3A lung cancer on the and Stage 1 lung cancer in the small area on the left.   He recommended 2 chemotherapeutic agents to kill the cancer.  I will be very fatigued and I will lose my hair.  I might have neuropathy in my hands and feet-these are the most common side effects.  Unfortunately, my rheumatoid arthritis complicates my treatment.  Then we saw Dr. Orcutt, the radiologist.  He recommended daily radiation therapy.  So at this point in time, the plan is for me to receive daily radiation and weekly chemo concurrently for 6 weeks, then 2 weeks of just chemo, and finally 2 more weeks of radiation every other day to reach the small area on the left.  The radiation therapy has advanced so much that it is even able to work with my breathing pattern to minimize radiation to healthy tissues.  

At this point, the start date is planned for March 9 after education, placing a chemo port, and mapping for radiation (yes, I will finally have a tattoo).    I'm expecting this to be a pretty rough 10 week period in my life.  But I'm also a tough old bird and I do intend to fight the good fight.  I am still considering a second opinion so this could skew the plan some but I haven't made a final decision on this.  

It's difficult to describe my feelings at this point.  I am so thankful for my husband, David, who has been with me every step of the way, and my family.  My sister, Sandy, has been so helpful as she is experiencing something similar.  Instead of the Pointer Sisters, we are the Cancer Sisters.  I have not shared this story much at this point because things have changed so rapidly.  I am angry, sad, regretful, scared, and ready to fight-all at the same time.  

I ask only one thing of you.  Please pray in whatever way is comfortable for you that the Lord is with me during this process.  I want to laugh a lot more than I cry.  And I've thought of all the people I have relationships with and realize how very blessed I've been.  Thank you all for that.  And never forget to spread the love.