On August 21, 2018, Susan was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small-cell adenocarcinoma of the lungs. The primary tumor is in her right lung, and cancer cells have metastasized to her liver and bones. Having never smoked in her life, and having absolutely no prior signs of illness, this news came as a shock to us all.
She began taking Tagrisso - a very targeted once-daily pill-form of chemotherapy for people with lung cancer who possess an EGFR gene mutation in their tumors. Akin to a lock and key, the Tagrisso worked to seek out the specific genetics of Susan's cancer cells to shrink the tumor in Susan's lungs significantly and stabilize (read: stop growth) of cancer cells in her liver and bones. For 6 months, Susan's life returned to near-normal as she carried on almost as if she never had a devastating diagnosis.
In Febrary 2019, things began to change. Susan developed a cough whilst on vacation in Florida and breathing became more difficult. Fearing pneumonia, she visited her doctors for a checkup only to learn the Tagrisso had stopped working and the tumor in her right lung was growing larger. Her medicines were changed and on March 4th she began her first round of intravenous chemotherapy and immunotherapy. This form of chemotherapy, based on the element platinum, is what most people think of when they think of cancer treatment, and is designed to work to destroy any fast-growing cells in the body with the hopes of eradicating cancer cells. The immunotherapy is relatively new and works with Susan's immune cells to swarm and eat-away the cancer cells almost as if they were bacteria invading the body.
Markedly weaker from the new medicines, Susan spent the next week trying to recover from the chemicals coursing through her veins. She seemed to be regaining energy slowly day by day, but her breathing was becoming increasingly laboured and rapid. She was well enough to have a small celebration with family for her birthday on March 14th. The next day, however, she was rushed to the hospital with extreme shortness of breath, where the doctors determined that the lymph nodes in her chest were inflamed to such an extent that they were pinching her tracheal bifurcation (the v-shaped area in the chest where the airways split into both lungs) to the point that air was almost completely cut off from both her bronchi. Unsure of whether the inflammation was due to the increased presence of cancer cells or an adverse reaction to her immunotherapy drug, doctors started her on emergency radiation treatments and steroid injections to stabilize her breathing and save her life.
Mom's brush with death was a harrowing experience, but she continues to fight with determination in her heart and a smile on her face. Never one to slow down, Susan continues to do as much as she can for and by herself, but is finding it increasingly difficult to carry on like before. Her cancer is causing extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, and difficulty talking for longer than a few minutes at a time. She will continue her chemotherapy but now must go to Syracuse for daily radiation treatments. She's a fighter, and has no plans to ever quit battling this disease. In her own words: 'I'm going to beat this thing.'
We - her daughter Kristin and son Michael - have started this Caring Bridge site to keep all of her friends and family updated on her situation, to send her messages of positivity and hope, and to coordinate anything we can think of to help her heal, fight this disease, and keep her feeling safe, happy, and loved - anything from rides to radiation to a happy morning out at breakfast with smiles and laughter.
Please check back for updates, and feel free to contact us at any time through the email link on the 'Ways to Help' page or at email@example.com