-> Diagnosed under 50

Losing My Hair from Cancer Treatment

When I first started chemotherapy to treat my lung cancer, my doctor insisted I would not lose my hair. She told me I might have other side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, and others typically associated with chemo, but those particular chemotherapy drugs would not cause hair loss.

I started my treatment in early August, and by the end of August, I was shedding hair like crazy all over the house. It was so bad, my husband bought buckets to put in each room to collect my hair in. In early September, I cut my hair short.

The Importance of Community for Lung Cancer Survivors

It’s shocking how many people with lung cancer go through the same struggles I did to get diagnosed. Whether you have symptoms or not, it can take a long time to arrive at a lung cancer diagnosis. I had symptoms for about 3-4 months, which my primary care physician tried treating with antibiotics with no improvement. Finally, I asked her if it was time to see a specialist.

Diagnosed with Lung Cancer at 36

Right before I had the seizure that led to the diagnosis of my lung cancer, I called 9-1-1. I’m a nurse, so I knew something was very wrong. Prior to the seizure, I had been feeling fatigued, having worsening migraines, and losing weight for months; I had been caregiving for a family member, however, so I had chalked it up to stress and exhaustion from the extra responsibilities. Little did I know, I had a large mass in my brain.

The Designated Thriver

I call myself The Designated Thriver. I was diagnosed at 34 with stage IV ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).  No one knew what to make of me or my symptoms, which were so mild that they went undetected.  Plus, there was no way ANYONE would ever think to screen a young woman for lung cancer.  It wasn't until a brilliant primary care physician ordered a chest x-ray and revealed I had been living, hiking, and snowboarding with only one lung that I was finally diagnosed.

The Danger of Radon

Radon is a gas that is present in nearly all air. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is released from the normal decay of natural elements uranium, thorium, and radium in rocks and soil. It seeps through the ground and diffuses into the air. Sometimes, it can dissolve into ground water and be released into the air when water is used.

Life Is What You Make It

My lung cancer was discovered by accident. In April 2016, I was in a car accident which landed me in the emergency room. I had scans to check for internal injuries. They didn’t find any broken bones but they did discover a mass in my lung. The E.R. doctor advised me to see my primary care provider for a follow up. My PCP referred me to a pulmonologist but since the mass was located behind my heart, there was nothing she could do. The pulmonologist requested a PET scan and referred me to a thoracic surgeon.

How My Passion for Lung Cancer Advocacy Paved the Road to Thoracic Oncology

On April 4, 2016, I received news that would change my life forever: my mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Before my mom was diagnosed, I knew nothing about lung cancer. I assumed that it was a smokers’ disease and that it was relatively easy to treat. I had no idea that lung cancer kills more people than breast, colorectal, and prostate cancers combined, and that people who never touched a cigarette could get lung cancer. After all the health classes and anti-tobacco programs I went through in school, I still felt unprepared for the road ahead.