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UPDATE 11/9/18

It has been quite some time since the last update, and I would say in this case, no news is good news.  Mom's last appointment and scan in late August went well; tumors are not growing, and even though the scan showed a new tumor, the oncologist said it was nothing to worry about (and perhaps it was something that was missed on the last scan).  The chemo drug is still doing its job, so we are all very happy about that.  And although she is exhausted, she goes to work every day and always makes time for her family.  Her next scan/appointment is in December, so I will update again when there is more information.  Thank you all so much again for the continuous support and prayers- we appreciate it so much![...]

UPDATE- 6/7/2018

This Saturday (June 9th) will mark 6 weeks on the targeted drug therapy, Tagrisso.  So far, my mom has not felt any better; however, she does not feel any worse.  Exhaustion at the end of each work day and finding herself quickly out of breath are some of the main issues going on.  She is also still sleeping at a 90 degree angle because of the coughing, and she feels like she can't yell- or raise her voice (and if you know the Brown family, that can be a problem).  She is in great spirits still, and has been a total trooper!  She made the 11-hour road trip to Kansas for my cousin, Cody's wedding just 2 weekends ago.  Her next appointment will be at the end of June; at that time we will reassess how the drug is working for her.[...]

Update on Treatment

It has been about 12 days on the Tagrisso and . . . so far, so good!  There was a check-up appointment on May 8th and all seems to be going well.  Mom is keeping positive and doing extremely well at her new job at Palatine High School as a supervisor in the main office.  Go Mamacita![...]

Doctors, Tests, and Treatment

     We went in to see the oncologist, Dr. Nisha Mohindra, at Northwestern, for the first time on April 11th.  She first told us about the results from the MRI, “The cancer did not spread to her brain.”  Hooray for some good news!  My mom was definitely relieved to hear this; we all were.  We talked about possible treatment options and learned that they don’t use the word, ‘remission’ when dealing with lung cancer.  Treatment would be based on whether or not she has a gene mutation, so she would either be starting chemotherapy through an IV the following week, or she would be able to use targeted drug therapy (where the drug specifically targets her cancer cell changes).  Radiation was not an option.  The amount of radiation needed for the cancer in her chest and neck would be too much for the surrounding areas (her heart, for example).  As Dr. Mohindra put it, “You have too much important real estate in that area, and we don’t want to risk damaging it.” She also told my mom that the average age of diagnosis is 71 years of age, so she is a young lung cancer patient.  This is one of the reasons Dr. Mohindra is all about thinking outside the box for my mom’s treatment plan, which I loved.[...]

The News

The night that my parents got the call was when I was coincidentally at a Relay for Life event with my students, raising money for the American Cancer Society, so my parents waited until the next day to give the news. My mom sounded so optimistic; she wanted to make sure WE were ok.  My parents told each of their 4 children individually.  It almost didn’t seem real, and it hurt too much to truly think or talk about it.  We all went through the cycle of sadness, anger and hope, but we also started to get to work right away by researching this horrific disease and possible treatments- anything- that would help her get better.  My mom’s younger brother, Patrick, was diagnosed with the same type of lung cancer in 2013 at the young age of 48 and lost his battle in February of 2016.  Both of their cases were not caused from smoking.  Our Aunt Laura (Patrick’s wife) was extremely helpful with getting us started on this journey since she has been through it all.  We would have to take this step by step.  And double up on prayers.[...]

The Beginning

In December of 2017, Terri (my mom), was experiencing abdominal pain on her right side under the ribs, so she decided to get it checked out.  The doctors thought it was her gallbladder causing her these symptoms, but multiple tests eventually led to the discovery of a mass in the upper right lobe of her lung.  Her first doctor was almost positive it was nothing, but he did a biopsy anyway.  It came back unclear.  His advice was to come back in April (in 3 months!) or have part of her lung removed.  At this point, she was still experiencing pain and was sleeping completely upright to avoid coughing fits at night.  Fortunately, she ended up sending her information to Northwestern for a second opinion.  The thoracic specialist and oncologist did not like the looks of the mass and suggested she come in for a PET scan as soon as possible.  These doctors also noticed that the biopsy results from the first doctor were unclear because they had completely missed the tumor; it was only lung tissue.  After months of waiting and worrying and several more tests, including a biopsy of a lymph node in her neck, they were able to diagnose the problem.  On April 6, 2018, she was told she has stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)- adenocarcinoma, which has spread outside the lung to lymph nodes up through the mediastinum (middle of her chest and both sides of her neck).  At age 56.  NOT from smoking.[...]