In March 2011, I was 55, healthy, a bit overweight, and exercising regularly. However, I’d had a nagging cough for a few months. To make my husband happy, I mentioned the cough to our doctor. Two months, two rounds of antibiotics, and several diagnostic procedures later, I learned I had advanced lung cancer.
I underwent two different lines of traditional cancer treatment. The first was aggressive chemo together with radiation. The second was a different chemo cocktail, followed by more radiation. Both times my cancer popped up in a new place within two months. I now was a metastatic cancer patient.
My oncologist said I would be on chemo for the rest of my life, which would likely be a year or less.
Fortunately, I learned from other patients online about a test for a genomic alteration in tumor tissue called ROS1. I arranged to have my tumor tissue tested for ROS1 at the University of Colorado in Denver, and I tested positive! I enrolled in a clinical trial in Denver shortly afterward, and took a drug called crizotinib twice a day in pill form to treat my cancer. My first scan eight weeks after I started the trial could detect no sign of cancer in my body. I am still in the trial, and have had No Evidence of Disease since January 2013.
I am not cured, but I am living well with metastatic lung cancer.
Precision medicine and new treatments are helping some cancer patients like me live months or even years longer. Together with a group of other patients who have ROS1-positive cancers, I aim to educate about the importance of getting tumor tissue tested, support research that may reveal more about what causes ROS1 cancer, and (hopefully) find a permanent cure for our disease.