Lung cancer survivor Terri has had a long journey to her diagnosis. A “tiny” spot on her lung was initially dismissed and eventually led to her diagnosis a decade later with stage IIIA non-small lung cancer. Learning her tumor was KRAS-positive allowed her to make the most informed treatment decisions for her lung cancer. Watch as she shares her journey and advice for taking control of your health and getting the best care.
Terri’s advice, “Hope shared is hope multiplied. Take control of your journey and get connected. These actions are key to staying on your path to empowerment.”
My name is Terri. I live in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2017, I was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Nearly a decade prior to my diagnosis, I went in for a routine physical. Checking the lungs, the medical staff said they heard something. I was sent for a scan and upon closer inspection, the radiologist confirmed there was a “tiny” spot. The expert who interpreted my results said “there is nothing to worry about, but you might want to follow up on that at some point.” I never pushed, nobody pushed.
With both experts not concerned, I was relieved. I was too busy with my life and family to worry about “nothing.” I just let it go and began taking the newly prescribed asthma medication.
Several years later, I found myself struggling to breathe in humidity. At first, I thought I was just out of shape, but it persisted. Maybe my asthma was just out of control? Thinking it was allergies, I began feeling worse, lasting the entire summer. My inner voice told me there was something more going on. Ignoring it through the Autumn, because I didn’t want something minor to slow me down, I pushed my body until I was nearly ready to collapse from this sinus infection.
At Christmas, I headed back to the doctor’s office where she could hear the fluid in my lungs. The fluid highlighted a suspicious mass in the scan. Those last few weeks couldn’t pass quickly enough for my January appointment with a specialist.
January came, and I saw the pulmonologist for closer examination. I’ll never forget his words, “I see CT scans in and out every day and if I thought this was lung cancer, I’d tell you right now.” I immediately thought about the radiologist who saw the “tiny” spot years earlier and dismissed it as nothing. A few weeks later a biopsy confirmed my worst fears. It was indeed a diagnosis of stage IIIA non-small cell lung cancer.
My oncologist presented my case before a tumor board of experts where they confirmed I had KRAS-positive lung cancer. This lung cancer biomarker test guided my treatment path. Learning my tumor was KRAS-positive allowed me to make the most informed treatment decisions for my lung cancer. The best course for me at the time was chemo, followed by a lobectomy.
Since then, I’ve had other treatments with new outbursts of lung cancer and continue to get regular scans. I can’t go back to the original ”tiny” spot, but what I learned is, “You either fight, or you die.” I had to accept what I couldn’t change and change what I could.
As a full-time lung cancer advocate, I want to ensure patients feel confident to speak up and ask questions when in doubt and make sure no one feels as alone like I did at the start of my lung cancer journey. My advice to other lung cancer patients:
- Tune into your body and listen
- Ask the questions to learn from your healthcare team
- Take control of your journey
- Connect with others that have a similar diagnosis, to learn & share
Hope shared is hope multiplied. I’ve made it my mission to empower others by sharing my story. Take control of your journey and get connected.
These actions are key to staying on your path to empowerment.