A Family Affair
Updated: Sep 29, 2018
Both of my parents have lung cancer. And yes, they were smokers. They were smokers at an early age and through many decades. At the time they were diagnosed however, they had been smoke-free for 11 and 12 years.
When my parents began smoking there was little known about the short and long-term effects of the habit, or its addictive nature. By the time anti-smoking campaigns became more prevalent and tobacco companies were under fire, my parents' addiction had taken hold. They tried to quit over the years, but it wasn't until 2006 when they, along with my aunt and uncle, decided once and for all that they were done smoking. And I couldn't have been more proud of them.
Smoking was a thing of past for my parents until December 2nd, 2017 when after suffering a stroke, my mom had a chest CT show a spot at the top of her right lung. Four days later it was confirmed that in addition to a tumor on her heart, my mom had lung cancer.
At that point she had been transferred to Tuffs Medical Center in Boston for her heart. There, she met with teams of doctors including an oncology team, which told us the heart tumor and the "spots" they saw on the brain scan was metastasized lung cancer - my mom had 4-6 months to live.
I immediately reached out to my boss who's wife had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer five years prior, and was being treated at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. Thanks to their efforts, and those of a few key people at Tuffs, my mom got right in to see Dr. Zosia Piotrowska just a few days later. She quickly assembled a multi-disciplinary team to assess and address the heart tumor, lung tumor and "spots" on her brain.
With a firm plan in place, my mom underwent open heart surgery over Christmas and a lymph node biopsy in January. It turned out the heart tumor was a myxoma; benign tumor of the heart and completely unrelated to lung cancer. The spots on her brain were determined to be mini stroke sites from the myxoma shedding pieces. With all of this new information, my mom was downgraded to a stage IIIA, and after chemotherapy and radiation, would undergo a lobectomy. The future was looking much brighter.
In May of 2018, shortly after my mom's lung surgery, the same aunt that quit with my parents nearly 12 years prior, was diagnosed with stage IA lung cancer. And most recently, my dad was also diagnosed with stage I. Neither had any symptoms. My aunt's doctor found the cancer after running an annual low-dose CT scan for another health risk. With my dad, after being denied by insurance twice, he finally got a low-dose CT scan.
I attended my first LUNGSTRONG 5k race in May and was overwhelmed with emotion watching the survivors cross the finish line (including my mom!), and the teams of family and friends running for loved ones. What an amazing organization - I had to get involved.
After discussion internally, my company decided to pick LUNGSTRONG as our charity for 2018, and since June, I have been able to use my skills to build the organization a new website and assist with other marketing initiatives. I feel very fortunate to be a part of, and help in any way I can, LUNSTRONG's mission.
Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer; no one is exempt. Let's work together to raise awareness and funds to eliminate this terrible disease.