It’s been five years since the pain I experienced while taking a deep breath took me to the ER which led to a stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis. Five years of chemotherapy treatments. Five years of hair loss and hair gain. Five years of weight loss and weight gain. Five years of saying hello, we are on this path together and goodby, it is an honor to know you – see you on the other side. Five years of devastatingly painful losses and still, five years of encouraging gains. During this five years we’ve maneuvered through a pandemic. Didn’t see that one coming but didn’t see cancer coming either so there’s that. Most importantly, five years of experiencing profound love and five years of living in the moment.

Five years is a significant benchmark in lung cancer speak.  With the advent of targeted therapies and immunotherapies, the five year survival rate has increased and for this we can thank our researchers because research matters and research along with exceptional care from so many has been instrumental in extending my life. This along with the multitudes of prayers, good wishes, good energy, good friends, good family and good luck.

I am eternally grateful.

Another milestone – forty years since my knight and I exchanged rings and I do’s. We have definitely tested the “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” portion of our vows. We’ve been in step and at times out of step with each other over the years, hands clasped, daring threatening obstacles to pull us apart. The learning and loving has never stopped, my love, no matter the years, no matter the obstacles. And again I say, how lucky am I to be riding the waves with you my strong and sensitive knight.

Grammy update: Ben is growing strong and is an absolute delight. We take every opportunity we are given to spend as much time with him and his parents as possible. He has discovered and is enthralled with his voice and just like his Mom at this age, is perfecting his whistle register. Rocky the dog is having a very difficult time with the pitch and volume but Ben is beyond thrilled with his new ability and practices often. The way that he forms his small mouth and directs his breath up into his head space before he “sings” is remarkable. We can remember our daughter singing herself to sleep at night and we are told that Ben is doing the same. I know that his momma sings to him with her beautiful voice as well and my heart is content. May music feed his soul as it has fed mine.

Trial update: Latest scans remain stable.  WHOOP!  My sixteenth treatment of DS-8201a was this past Thursday which happened to be the same day The White Ribbon Project (#TheWRP4LC) presented a white ribbon to Dr. Richard Schulick, Director of the Colorado University Cancer Care Clinic. It was my honor to be asked to coordinate the presentation with CU.  Dr. Ross Camidge and Dr. Tejas Patil, my oncologists, along with Josh Saginaw, RN, my clinical trials coordinator and a slew of coordinators, nurses, researchers, survivors, caregivers and advocates gave their time and showed their support. It can’t be underestimated the impact gained when the medical community joins with survivors and advocates shining a light on the fact that anyone can get lung cancer. Together, we challenge the stigma surrounding lung cancer and shine a light on the need for fair funding and continued lung cancer research.

My treatment side effects are somewhat unpredictable in their severity. Mostly I deal with nausea and fatigue for the first week or so after treatment and this I can handle with the help of acupuncture, IV fluids, anti-nausea meds and rest.

More support for came from SkyRidge Medical Center where two and one-half years ago I received five rounds of SBRT (stereotactic body radiation therapy).  Dr. Mark Edson gathered his staff of familiar faces and with “Varian” in the background we took a few pictures.  My friend Heidi, whom Dr. Edson also treated, and her husband Pierre invited us to attend the spur of the moment photo opportunity and other than some radiation treatment PTSD which Heidi and I shared, it was great to see these exceptional and caring professionals again.

Who knows what the five year survival percentage will be; in five more years. I have very high hopes that we will continue to break barriers and reach well beyond the current five year survival rate which for me and others diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, is – 7%. (American Cancer Society)

Milestones. Time to set some new ones.

p.s. update: We are expanding our navigation tool to include colon and pancreatic cancers! Thank you for your donations during Giving Week which has made this possible.