One theme that resonates throughout Brenda's journey is hope. Her
story started nine months ago. Brenda recalls her experiences leading up until the moment she learned of her diagnosis.
“I had mild asthma and a little bit of a cough, it also responded to my asthma medication, so I wasn't concerned about it and a couple weeks before my diagnosis, I started getting short of breath, and that was new for me. I started to think about making an appointment for a doctor's visit and then it stopped responding to my asthma treatment, and I called for an x-ray.”
I was admitted and the surgeon came in the next morning and said you have stage IV lung cancer. There was no one in the room with me because of Covid.
The doctor said ‘this is bad’
I said, you're in the wrong room.”
Brenda had led quite a healthy life up until receiving her diagnosis. “I have never smoked a cigarette in my life, I exercise everyday and I drank a green smoothie this morning. There is no cancer in my family, it's not me.”
She recalls being told she did not have a mutation until after receiving a second opinion from an oncologist. “I was told I didn't have a mutation.” There she learned that she did in fact have the KRAS mutation and while it may not be actionable directly, it could be actionable indirectly. She remembers the doctor saying, “With what you have, it is indirectly actionable, so when what you are on stops working, there are other trials, t-cells, there's hope. What he gave me was two things - education and hope.”
Brenda also touched on the challenges she has faced so far throughout her journey, from not receiving education about her diagnosis prior to second opinion, traveling required to see specialists and the hours spent dealing with insurance trying to get radiation treatments approved.
“I had to speak with insurance for a few days about getting this (radiation) approved, and had to give the hospital a check to cover radiation just in case insurance did not approve the bill. One day I spent about eight hours on the phone with the insurance company, and it was so stressful.”
Since her diagnosis, Brenda has endured radiation and chemotherapy and was part of a study for her plural mets where they use low-dose radiation.
In January, Brenda’s cancer started to spread and she started in a study in March 2022. “So far I am feeling good and doing great. I have increased my walks and have been able to bike again.
How am I doing ?
Still using my wrinkle cream!
She feels good enough to start some advocacy, learn more, and give back. She has signed up to be a KRAS Kickers phone buddy and will be attending a large research-focused oncology conference as a patient advocate in June.
Overall, she values the support she has received from her husband and her medical team.“I have a whole support team behind me. I'm very thankful…I would like to do anything I can in my journey to help someone who is starting as well”.
Her message to others,
“Lung cancer can happen to anyone at any time, no one is exempt from bad things happening to them. I think a positive attitude and a willingness to search for answers, not relying on the first thing you're told, and to ask questions is an important part of your journey.”
Written by Gabrielle Connolly
Brenda's interview with Terri Conneran in its entirety
These are the journeys of cancer survivors that have graciously offered to share this part of their lives with us to provide an awareness of community and hope to our readers.
We are all in this together and we all have a story to tell.
None of us are in this alone,