Scan Results, Swallowing and Advocacy

Time for another health update (with a bit of an advocacy update)!

I had another regularly scheduled CT scan, and like all the scans since I started chemo it showed that the cancer has either shrunk or remained stable. Good news! Amazing news, actually! Even while on a treatment break the cancer is held at bay. So very grateful! Seems like a miracle! My symptom management (palliative care) doctor thinks that perhaps my immune system now recognizes the cancer as something to attack. Really great news!

I haven’t heard a recent update, but it seems the clinical trial I’m hoping for probably won’t open up in Toronto until maybe December or next year. Ottawa probably won’t open it until the Spring. There are many hoops to jump through, and COVID has affected cancer research which affects so many people. The good news is that it does not seem so urgently needed by me right now. Of course urgency matters tremendously, as things can change very quickly. We never know how long we may be able to wait, and there are many people who need more treatment options urgently. Survivors matter!

More research means more survivors and better survivorship! I continue to pursue a variety of advocacy efforts, including cancer research and fundraising for research. Today, among other things, I connected with the Canadian Cancer Society who want to share my story again, and people from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Canadian Cancer Trials Group. I also messaged Prime Minister Trudeau about lung cancer.

But back to the health update … I’ve faced swallowing challenges since the summer, even though I’m very careful when eating or drinking. I lean forward and place my chin on my chest when I swallow. I’m eating a lot of soup and some other very soft foods, one very small mouthful at a time alternating with sips of water. I only eat very small, very healthy meals, and try to eat four or five times per day to get as much nutrition as I can manage.

I reached out to the Speech-Language Pathologist who helped me a couple of years ago when I was having swallowing issues previously and did the swallowing study. She is lovely and we had an online appointment last week where she gave me a lot of helpful tips and reassurance.

A referral to an Ear Nose Throat doctor was made, with an upper endoscopy scheduled for this afternoon. I’m looking forward to learning what the procedure will tell us, though a little nervous about having a camera stuck down my throat. There will be sedation, and I think my kids are looking forward to seeing if I’ll still be feeling the effects when I get home. Apparently some people don’t remember anything about the procedure, so I’m hopeful it won’t be as difficult as the similar procedures I’ve had before.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. What is your Cancer Centre doing to celebrate? #LCAM

Replenish

We all go through seasons when we need extra replenishing, and this is one of those seasons for me and many people I know. Whether it’s physical, emotional or another kind of replenishing, we human beings need regular replenishment.

Sometimes something so simple as a glass of cool water can make a huge difference. Maybe we need food, and a simple snack of veggies and protein can do a world of good. For most of my live, I’ve never been a napper, but many people find naps refreshing. In this current season of living with cancer, I nap frequently, waking up with a second wind. Rest matters, even if we don’t fully sleep.

The kids and I sometimes watch one of their favourite shows after dinner, and this can be a sleepy time of day for me. Sometimes no matter how hard I try, I can’t keep my eyes open. They watch me like hawks and call out to wake me as soon as they think I may be dozing off. Some of the time I’m just resting my eyes, but often they wake me up and rewind the show so I don’t miss anything important. How awesome are they! I’m so grateful for them.

Exercise is one of the best ways to recharge, and can really help reduce stress and cancer fatigue. As they say, it’s always wise to check with one’s care team first, and of course always listen to one’s body.

The hot days can be extra challenging, especially for those of us who don’t have air conditioning. On the difficult days I use fans and a cool, damp cloth on my forehead and/or the back of my neck can be a game changer.

It’s important to invest time in things that nourish us. This can be challenging as our various abilities shift from time to time. Several years ago, for example, I took up acrylic painting and really enjoyed it. When I started on a different med, though, my hands hurt and painting was no longer an enjoyable pastime. The treatment was definitely worth this side effect, since it was keeping me alive. It is important to be ready to make adjustments and shift to new things that fuel us.

For those who love a lot of people living with a deadly disease, it is not unexpected that we will lose people we care about. This weight of grief can be a heavy load to carry. I found a grief counsellor through Hospice Care Ottawa who listened a lot and gave good suggestions for self care. One of the best self care suggestions makes sense for everyone, not just those carrying an extra heavy weight of grief…

Make a list of things that we can do to care for ourself, and break it down by time required. A category for a few minutes, another category for up to an hour or a couple of hours, one for all day or even longer… Self reflection and experimentation is required to make the most of this opportunity. Post the list somewhere convenient for easy reference!

To get you thinking, here are just a few of the things I find nourishing right now…

Few minutes: glass of ice water, look for birds out the window, enjoy a snack, sit under the carport, listen to a song on the radio, dance, do a few exercises (stretching is so good!), cross a small job off the “to do” list, play a word game on the phone, message a friend, list things I’m thankful for …

Up to an hour or more: visit with a friend, read, reflect, journal, phone a friend, walk outside, do exercises, sit in the garden, do a medium job on the “to do” list, nap, watch a show, listen to a podcast …

What brings me most joy, peace and hope continues to be reading the Bible and praying (ever since I was 17 years old). This is how I am replenished many times each day, with thanksgiving.

What replenishes you? I encourage you to make a list and set aside portions of your days to do these things regularly. We all need regular replenishing.

Generous friends brought delicious dinner (polenta, peppers, egg and basil) and also a cute little dog for a visit this evening. Very grateful for good friends!

Living on Oxygen: tips that have helped me

A few people have asked for advice about living on oxygen, including someone on the West Coast who I had a good conversation with yesterday. Seems like a good idea to share some tips that have helped me and to make it clear again that I have no medical training. These tips may not be suitable for you, so (as always) please talk with your own care team and bring your list of questions to them so they can answer with good advice specific to your situation.

Sending out love to everyone who is on oxygen, or considering it. Being on oxygen can be challenging, and I hope this post may make it a little better, even in some small way. We are never alone.

It is almost exactly six months since I went to emergency and stayed in the hospital for several days due to shortness of breath. I’ve been on oxygen ever since, 24-7. My oxygen rate requirement increased significantly over months, and more recently it has decreased a bit. This decrease is a real relief, since I was up to 10 on a machine that only goes to 10. I have a terrific respiratory therapist with the oxygen equipment rental company, and she brought over a second machine in case I needed to go above 10. These two machines can be linked together and go up to about 15 Lpm of oxygen. Very thankful I have not had to do this so far.

Being on oxygen can be scary and shocking. Some people have said they want to “tough it out” and avoid using oxygen, but it’s there to help us breathe better and if our team recommends it then it’s definitely worth trying. For me and for many others it made such a world of difference. I was having a hard time walking from one room to the next in my small home prior to going on oxygen. Even with it, I still need to move slowly. Walking slowly is challenging for me, and my kids will tell you that, as will anyone who was within hearing distance of us today while walking up and down the street, my youngest reminded me to slow down SO MANY times, out of love and concern. I need to be reminded. I get excited and tend to speed up. Oxygen is extending my life, and right now there is no option for me. I sleep with it, shower with it, and keep it going all the time.

When suffering from shortness of breath, it’s important to relax and take long, deep breaths. In through the nose and out through the mouth. This might feel like it’s very difficult, but it really matters. This is the way to change back to “normal” breathing, and it’s doable. Leaning forward in one’s chair, or on a counter or chair back if standing, can help also, as can sitting up straight and putting one’s elbows out so there is more room for the lungs to expand. Some people find it helpful to put a fan on. It seems counter-intuitive to slow down the breathing, but long deep breaths is important, and relaxing to make this possible is important. Ask your team what is best for you.

I’m using a machine that sucks in air from the room and shoots out oxygen through tubing which goes into my nose through a nasal cannula. This can be drying for the nose and throat, especially at higher flow rates, so Secaris nasal lubricating gel was recommended, applied using a very small amount on a q-tip. The directions say every 4 hours or as needed. I’ve been using it for almost six months and haven’t even used half of my 30g tube, but I don’t put it on as often as I maybe should. Perhaps this is too much information, but my nose bleeds frequently, especially in the dry weather and on higher oxygen levels. It is important to keep the airway clear so the oxygen can get through easily. (Also important to not use oily / greasy moisturizers near the tubing.)

Things can go wrong, and when one is relying on an oxygen machine to stay alive, it’s important to think these possibilities through and have plans in place, just in case. If my machine stops, a loud alarm sounds. This has happened a couple of times, and I’ve also accidentally pulled the cord from the wall (usually by trying to go too far from the machine, especially when the cord gets tangled up). Obviously, it has worked out just fine every time. One machine needed to be replaced, and a representative from the rental company came over and took care of that promptly. Also, we had an electrical problem in our home which required calling an electrician to get it fixed. He was great and had the problem solved within a couple of hours of calling him.

It’s important to regularly check for and straighten out kinks in the tubing that can decrease oxygen flow, including twists in the tubing by one’s neck. I check this several times each day, and always before going to bed. I monitor my oxygen levels (%SpO2) using a little device that fits on the finger, which also shows the heart rate. If you have one, you can ask your respiratory therapist to check for how accurate it is. I’m supposed to keep my oxygen levels between 91-95.

I also have oxygen tanks, with weekly deliveries to replace empty with full tanks (and bring replacement tubing etc.). Obviously, it’s important to stay on top of this. We make sure that there is always an extra tank nearby (ideally in the same room) in case of emergencies so we can switch the tubing from the machine to the tank for seamless oxygen supply. My kids are awesome about this and come running if the machine sounds. I use the tanks when out walking or going on trips to the hospital for example.

Speaking of hospital trips, when at appointments I use the hospital oxygen, whether a big tank on a wheelchair or being plugged into the oxygen in the wall by a hospital bed. It’s important to check the hospital tank gage levels because, even though they are so big, they can empty out too. Twice now I’ve emptied out all the oxygen from a large hospital oxygen tank. Obviously all worked out fine, but it’s important to have emergency plans in place and to ask for help when we need it. Very grateful for the people who’ve come rushing to help. I now always also carry my own tank for a back-up. It’s a bit awkward, but worth it. The rental company included a bag for the knee-high sized tanks so I put it on my lap in the wheelchair.

The thought of being on oxygen can bring lots of feelings, but if our team recommends it then it could really make a terrific difference for us, extending our lives potentially for months or even years. Ideally our team will figure out the cause and find a solution to improve our health, but until then we can benefit so much from the support of oxygen. Please make a list of your questions and talk with your team about them. They will have the answers that are appropriate for your best care. You can ask for a palliative care team for symptom management (studies show that people who have a palliative care team live longer and better – it’s not just for end of life care). You can also ask for a respiratory therapist and/or a physical therapist. Lots of people benefit from oxygen. We are never alone.

By the way, the dog seems to love oxygen tubing and is typically seen lying on it, often with his enormous head on it and/or his paws wrapped around it. As massive as he is, he has not decreased the oxygen flow, nor has he ever pulled out the electrical cord from the wall. Who’s a good dog!

#hope

#love

#oxygen

#life

#dog

Celebrating Victories

How much it matters to celebrate even the small victories! Especially during tough times, we celebrate progress, we celebrate little wins, we celebrate each step on the path toward our goal.

Many of you know I’ve been working on walking more and it has been challenging. Ever since I was in hospital for shortness of breath in February, and even before then, shortness of breath has at times made it challenging to walk even a couple of steps. I’ve set out chairs in my home to help me make it from room to room. Our home is not large, but there were times I could not walk to the next room without a rest to let my blood oxygen levels rise – even while on oxygen.

I walked in the house with oxygen very slowly, and aimed for a six minute walk each day initially. Often I had to rest more than once during the six minute walks. Eventually the length of walks could increase with fewer rests. The whole time, the goal was to keep my blood oxygen level between 91 and 95%. Often it would dip way down in the 80’s very suddenly. Sometimes even to the low 70’s. Not good.

My treatment breaks seem to be doing good for this body so far, and we are very grateful and quite excited about this – about being alive. To be real, it seemed that I was very close to death for a couple of months. Quite a few people have said they thought so, including my palliative care doctor.

I’m doing better in general, and even on lower oxygen levels in recent days. So very thankful!

I’ve been walking up and down on the street for a few months, with a walker or carrying my oxygen tank, or pulling it with a little cart. I’ve worked on lengthening these walks, and have been able to walk to the end of the street and back most days recently.

Yesterday, with the support and encouragement of my kids, we walked around the block together. Two of them were with me, and they said (if needed) one could run back and get my walker while the other stayed with me. One carried my oxygen tank and the other helped watch my oxygen monitor. Together we made it all the way around the block. First time in over six months!

Those of you who know where I live will tell you it’s not a long distance, not a big block. We still celebrate small victories, and this one felt really big. You are invited to celebrate together with us! I was tired today, and just walked up and down the street this evening, but yesterday, together we proved that I am able to walk all the way around the block. Gosh it felt good!

We don’t have cures for lung cancer the way we would like yet, but more and more treatments are being developed and getting approved. We celebrate the small victories on the path to cures.

One of my doctors said they don’t understand why I’m doing so well on this treatment break. There is so much to learn about cancer and treatments, and people’s responses to treatment. Did my body kick into gear and start fighting off the cancer? That was this doctor’s theory, based on over 20 years experience with people affected by different kinds of cancers. I don’t know why my scans are looking better and I’m feeling better, but I’m giving thanks for this beautiful good gift of extended life.

Here’s a big shout out to those who speak encouragement into my life. You make a world of difference. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Cheers to you! You are helping to keep me going. Encouragement and support really matter.

Cheers to the researchers, doctors and teams who are working for better, longer lives for people affected by cancer! I know for a fact that doctors are cheering for their patients and very happy when we do better. When you get the opportunity, please say encouraging words and thanks to people who encourage and care for people. Please support and encourage and thank those who research, who work very hard for small victories, with hope for effective treatments and cures. So much gratitude and hope!

Those of you who are following this story and cheering for health improvements … please join in and celebrate this victory!

#gratitude

#hope

#treatmentbreak

#chemo

#targetedtherapy

#cancer

#lungcancer

Steroids

Dexamethasone, a.k.a. decadron, is a steroid commonly used by many people for many health conditions including cancer. I’ve been taking it in various doses daily since my hospital stay in February, almost six months ago. Something very important about this drug is to not suddenly stop taking it. It is critical to taper down before stopping. My care team has been working to find the best dose for me, and in process I’ve learned a few things.

First, can you tell these two pills apart?

If you look closely enough, yes you can, but don’t they look very much alike? These are both the same drug, but one is 4 mg and the other is 0.5 mg. How easy would it be to make a significant, health-altering mistake?

Dexamethasone is a steroid that people frequently vary the dose of, so often have both 4mg and .5 mg pills in their home, and frequently need to cut the 4’s in half. One of the two main issues I’ve bumped up against is how similar they look. It is possible to tell them apart, but very challenging. If you’re taking 3mg, for example, you would cut a 4 in half and add two .5’s, but if you accidentally got that backwards, you would ingest 8.25 and that could really hurt a person. The second is that it is very difficult for the ordinary person to break one in half. These seem like simple fixes with a design change on the 4 mg pill.

I’m feeling a little more energized and today I reached out to a dear friend who has a good friend who is a pharmacist to ask for contacts and advice on how to proceed it I’m seeking to drive change here. I don’t know how much energy I have for this, but could perhaps send an email.

Also really want to give a shout out to my pharmacist at the Glebe Apothecary who cut a whole bunch of 4mg pills in half for me last time I had the prescription filled. I asked about the cost of the pill cutter, but chose not to buy it, and when my pills were delivered they came like this. Such a good gift! This makes taking 2.5 mg daily so much easier! Very grateful.

#hope

#advocate

#living

#steroids

#decadron

#dexamethasone

#pharmacist

#pharmacy

Virtual / Reality

We have a carport and it’s a great place for visits most of the year. A dear friend from High School ordered a heater for us and had it delivered shortly after a chilly visit last Fall, and that has extended the carport visiting season. So grateful!

It’s very special to be able to meet with people in person, and this summer quite a few friends are coming to town and making time for carport visits. Yesterday a childhood friend (we used to play piano duets together) came from the Seattle area and her Mom (who still lives in the same home with the same phone number (which I and so many others still remember)) came to visit. Such a treat! It’s so good to see people in person, even from 6 feet apart outside. In my opinion, it’s better in person than at a distance. Better in reality than virtually, in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, virtually is good, and in some circumstances it can open doors and provide opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. This is one of the silver linings of COVID and don’t get me wrong, I am grateful. It’s so good to meet “face to face” virtually when it’s too challenging (for a potential variety of reasons) to really meet face to face. There are good reasons for both. There is a season for everything. So grateful for a variety of options.

This is one of the reasons I’m such a fan of and advocate for CRAFT, 3CTN’s framework to make clinical trials more accessible for Canadians living in remote and rural parts of our geographically huge country. So important! 

Here’s a short video about CRAFT with some great quotes from a few people which was made over a year ago. CRAFT has now been rolled out and is serving people at several locations.

Zoom and other similar platforms have enabled many of us to speak at international conferences and other events the past couple of years. I’ve spoken at so many virtually, and we recognize the upside of not having to travel and spend time away. This has been a good gift which has also been a real difference maker for many of us.

Speaking personally, these visual platforms have also transformed much of my patient research advocacy in other ways. I used to have so many phone call meetings prior to COVID, and some of them with quite a large number of people. Initially I hadn’t met all the researchers in person and I did not always recognize all the voices. Sometimes some of the people did not introduce themselves when they started speaking and it could be challenging to figure out which person (from which place) was speaking. It’s so much easier with platforms that can show faces and even list their names. So much easier to get to know people and be better able to contextualize their comments. So  much better for community building than a mere large group phone call. So grateful for this!

In recent months, many members of the lung cancer community and other friends have sent gift certificates for our family to order food in. It means so much to receive this support that comes with love and appreciation. One ordered pizza for us, several have brought food, and many friends including our church community has brought much food and sent food in various ways as well. It’s such a treat and very much appreciated. Twice people have sent fruit bouquets which are so delicious, and so many other yummy things have arrived at our door – too many to name, and received with tremendous appreciation whether sweet or savoury. Thank you!

I’m very grateful for local friends who have done things this week – again, too many to name – like offer to pick up a walker for me, or regularly walk our dog. The reality is that there are times when we need real physical, local support. So many people here in Ottawa have offered and/or given support when needed, for example, rides to appointments, picking up groceries etc. Where would we be without our local people?

As much as we appreciate the virtual reality, we recognize there are some things that obviously cannot be done from a distance. Even for those who are part of strong virtual support groups, it seems obvious that it’s important to make sure we are also cultivating relationships with people in our own geographic community. We never know when we might need local support.

Please let me say again that we are incredibly grateful for the reality of this local support as well as the support from a distance.

#love

#hope

#support

August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day. What is your cancer center doing to celebrate?

Advocacy highlight

One of many advocacy highlights happened at the AACR Annual Meeting in Atlanta in 2019. I was at the Convention Center, working on a presentation about immunotherapy for the Scientist <–> Survivor Program, while hanging out with several people, including Rhonda Meckstroth and Chris Draft. Chris knows just about everyone, and was talking with many of the researchers who were passing by there. He introduced some people to us, especially if they would be good people to interview about immunotherapy. Chris is a great connector and loves to share his resources with others. The lung cancer community has benefited so much from him. He’s always available to us.

Suddenly Chris nudged me and pointed to a small crowd walking by. In the midst of this crowd was a man who looks kind of like your stereotypical scientist. He looked very familiar to me. He looked very much like Dr. Jim Allison, Nobel Prize Laureate for his work on immunotherapy. I felt very excited and very shy. I asked Chris if it was really him. Yes, it was. (Of course it was – he was there presenting.) I wondered if I should go talk with him. Yes, I should! I went running after his entourage and tried to get through the crowd. They weren’t letting me, but when Dr. Allison heard that I was a lung cancer survivor advocate, he told them it was ok to let me in. He warmly welcomed me into his circle and a big wave of gratitude washed over me for this man and his team who were history makers, who had changed so many people’s stories and extended so many lives. I was very excited to be able to tell him that he had made a huge difference for the lung cancer community, saving many lives including some of my friends. I thanked him on behalf of the lung cancer community, telling him we were very grateful for him and his team. Expressing gratitude matters

#gratitude

#hope

Please note: some of my previous posts have not been saved as expected, so keeping this blog updated has been challenging. Also, a fairly recent post published before it was intended, so many edits were not made. The main correction to make clear is that we are not stopping treatment, just taking treatment breaks.

Recent Health Updates: Exercise

I had a PET scan, and appointments with my family doctor, thoracic surgeon/respirologist (who may do a biopsy) and oncologist recently. Good news all around! (Which may not be 100% precisely accurately remembered / communicated here.)

First of all, you may already know this bit of background I’ve been on Lorlatinib (a targeted therapy / cancer-fighting pill) since 2018. In 2020 we noticed progression so we radiation on those pesky spots, but that didn’t work as well as we’d hoped it would. Our next plan (still in 2020) was to keep the Lorlatinib and add Pemetrexed (IV chemo). This continued for 24 cycles, but in February 2022 I was admitted to hospital with shortness of breath of unknown causes. In Spring 2022 the experts determined that I was doing very poorly, likely due to the Pemetrexed, and stopped IV chemo for a treatment break. I continued on the Lorlatinib, but after an appointment with my oncologist very recently, we have decided to take a brief treatment break to see how I do on no treatment for a little while. Please note: these are just treatment breaks. 

My family doc has agreed to look into what may be causing the shortness of breath, since it’s not necessarily cancer, which is great news! My oncologist also is referring me to a specialist who may be able to help with this.

The thoracic surgeon / respirologist said the PET scan revealed there is a small spot which may be measurable disease that he can easily biopsy if needed for the clinical trial. He also said that shortness of breath is natural since my lungs have much smaller capacity because of the scarring from cancer, the treatments, pneumonias, etc. This could have been discouraging, however when I asked what I could do to maximize what I’ve got and live as well and as long as possible, his answer was inspiring! This expert said that exercise makes a difference. Exercise is helpful – even when suffering from shortness of breath and in need of oxygen – and will influence all aspects of health. It doesn’t have to be at the pace that we might think. He encourages, for example, walking at a slow pace where we can still have a conversation with a friend and breathe. It matters that we keep pushing ourselves, at a slow pace, and it will help us to live longer and better.

Survivorship can be challenging. We need to remember that we are stronger than we think we are and by pushing ourselves a little, at a slow pace, and asking our friends to support and encourage us, we can potentially live longer and better.

Very grateful for Andrea Redway, for coming with me to the thoracic surgeon and also taking notes! (Everyone needs support and an advocate.) Still grateful for the cake made and brought by the awesome Vanneste sisters back in 2017 for our outreach table for World Lung Day. What a great surprise and generous gift that was! August 1 is World Lung Cancer Day. What is your Cancer Centre doing to celebrate?

#hope

Also very grateful for the ALK group who hosted a zoom call recently with people from Nuvalent, the biotech company developing the drug that I’m hoping to gain access to, potentially through upcoming clinical trial later this year. (Very grateful for Nuvalent.) One of the things I love about this trial is that the team has worked very hard to make it as accessible as possible to as many people as possible. So, for example, you can have had multiple prior lines of treatment. You could be 107 years old. You could have ALK cancer, but not specifically ALK lung cancer – even rarer. You can even live in Ottawa Canada.

(Note: most pictures here are pre-COVID.)

Brief Summary of Treatment in Two Parts

A bit of background for those interested in a summary of treatment lines, in two parts. With a huge load of hope!

First since 2018:

I’ve been on Lorlatinib (a targeted therapy / cancer-fighting pill) since 2018. In 2020 we noticed progression so did radiation on those pesky spots, but did not get hoped for results. Our next plan (still in 2020) was to keep the Lorlatinib and add Pemetrexed / Alimta (IV chemo, 3-week cycles). This ultimately continued 24 cycles, till March 31 2022.

In February 2022 I was admitted to hospital with gradually worsening shortness of breath of unknown causes which had become very serious. I started on constant oxygen and have continued gradually increasing the flow. Many tests were done, but nothing jumped out as a likely cause. Steroids, puffers, a transfusion and a couple of other drugs were added to my list, but no major improvement.

In Spring 2022 I continued to decline and was doing very poorly. The experts wondered if it was due to the Pemetrexed, and decided to stop the IV chemo. I continued on the Lorlatinib, and every scan since has shown the cancer remains stable or shrinks a little. I’m still on oxygen, still not much better, but a little later today we’re going to talk about whether we should consider pausing Lorlatinib to see if that helps with breathing.

Always holding onto hope!

Now since 2013 Diagnosis:

December 2013 – April 2014 IV chemo, still coughing (4 months), pneumonia several times

July 2014 – May 2015 Crizotinib (11 mos)

May 2015 Ceritinib start. Scans clear fall 2015 (20 mos)

Jan. 2017 Alectinib feel better than had since Dx (20 mos)

September 2018 started Lorlatinib feel fantastic!

—-

October 2020 radiation, 5 days – then back on Lorlatinib

Pneumonia

November 2020, started Alimta (Pemetrexed) 3week cycle. Pneumonia after first cycle.

March 24/21, still going strong. Feeling better on Pemetrexed and getting stronger. Praying for new treatment options. 

April 6/21, very tired this cycle, but on evening of 12th starting to feel energy returning. Praying for new treatment options.

Feb 2022 hospital for shortness of breath

April 2022 still short of breath and uncertain why Still praying for new treatment options. 

NVL-655 May be an option

#hope

PET Scan in the Morning

There’s a fairly big appointment this week, so it seems appropriate to give a health update. I’m getting a PET scan (Positron Emisson Tomography) in the morning. I haven’t had one since just prior to diagnosis in 2013, though it’s common for our lung cancer sisters and brothers in the US to have them more regularly. I don’t remember much about my first PET Scan, except that it took place at the cancer centre and the technician was very kind. He greeted me with something like, “How goes the battle today?”, and I strongly remember bursting into tears because no matter how I may have felt about that kind of language, suddenly this cancer experience became very real and I felt that I was in a fight that seemed very big and serious. He gave lots of information back then, but much has been forgotten. One thing that stands out clearly was that I shouldn’t hug my kids afterwards because I would be radioactive, and that not hugging my kids was a very big, traumatic thing for me and my kids when I got home.

The PET scan should help give us information about where the cancer is or isn’t, to help decide future course of action. Areas which look like cancer light up in the scan because areas that are cancer eat up sugar more quickly than areas that aren’t cancer. They make the cancer light up on the screen by making some sugar in a person radioactive, if I remember properly, so that clearly distinguishes any potentially cancerous areas from normal ones.

The particular kind of cancer that has been attacking me and many friends is called ALK+, and there has been a lot of excitement for some time in the ALK+ community about a new weapon, a new drug being developed by Nuvalent against ALK+ cancer called NVL-655. (You can read more here or here if you’re interested.) They are in process of opening clinical trials, and there is hope that they will open clinical trials in Toronto and Ottawa (Canada, where I live), among other places. If Ottawa were to open one, it would probably be a phase two clinical trial which I wouldn’t qualify for since I’ve already had so many lines of treatment (but other people could potentially benefit greatly from it). There is the possibility that I might be able to be part of the phase one trial which might open possibly in Toronto (about 5 hours drive away) sometime in the months to come.

My oncologist and other experts who know me know that I very much would like to try this drug, and are taking action to make sure that we are doing everything we can to get access to this new drug, if possible, perhaps through clinical trial or perhaps through compassionate access.

The best people are on it, so we keep on holding onto hope.

Advocacy is about relationships. Who we know can mean the difference between life and death. I’ve gotten to know some amazing people who are advocating for me. We are very grateful.

Advocacy is also about urgency. Advocates need to fight for urgency.

I’m so glad to know powerful advocates!

Those of you who are praying types are powerful advocates, and we appreciate the very many of you who pray regularly for us. Thank you. Please pray for wisdom and for pathways to open up for me and many others. Please keep praying for healing and for God’s mercy. Thank you

Keep holding onto hope!