763: That is how many consecutive days I had been running at least one mile—also known as a running streak.
Surgery ended that. On what would have been day 764, I had the lower right lobe of my lung removed. Even with no known risk factors and a healthy lifestyle, at age 46, I was diagnosed with lung cancer.
Because the doctors believed this was the result of some sort of congenital abnormality and the 7 cm cyst and 2.5 cm tumor were thought to be contained in the lobe that was removed, I was declared “surgically cured.”
However, one year later, a scan revealed 13 new cysts in the two remaining right lobes. After a biopsy, I was offered two directions for treatment: surgical removal of the remaining right lobes followed by chemotherapy, or chemotherapy only. Because I tested positive for the KRAS biomarker, there was no targeted therapy option available to me. After seeking second opinions from several renowned cancer centers, I decided to start traditional chemotherapy and immunotherapy, holding off on further surgery. We decided to additional surgery as an option of last resort.
Learning that I would be facing chemo for an “indefinite duration” was overwhelming. I felt out of control. It was during the recovery from the biopsy surgery that I realized I needed to control what I could. I would restart a running streak.
It was slow and painful at first. The surgery had reawakened angry nerves that had finally settled down after the first surgery a year earlier. While it was slow and ugly, I began to run.
I knew from my earlier streak that the decision to run every day without missing a day was not just a personal commitment. It involved everyone around me being understanding and committed to supporting the streak. Even though my friends and family thought I was crazy, they supported my decision.
For two and a half years, through chemo and immunotherapy treatments every 3 weeks, I ran every day. Early on, running every day was easy. I was still traveling for work, often leaving straight from the infusion center to go to the airport to squeeze in a quick business trip. I would get home on Friday evening, just in time for the full effects of the chemo to kick in. Those weekends became harder and eventually became the most challenging part of my streak.
As time progressed, so did the cumulative effects of the chemo and immunotherapy. Sick weekends became sick weeks. The amount of time needed to recover between treatments became longer. Sadly, I even had to leave my demanding career of nearly 30 years. After 18 months of treatments, throwing up after running during the days following chemo became part of my expected routine. Despite this, there was no way I was going to give up the one thing I felt I controlled.
As often happens, eventually, the treatment stopped working. 934 days into my streak, I stopped to have the remainder of my right lung removed. The doctor was able to save a little “nub” of my uppermost right lobe. This allowed for a quicker recovery. I was back to running seven weeks later. Once again, it was slow and ugly but I wanted to regain that sense of control.
Early on, I believed that surgery was the “last-ditch” option for people like me with the KRAS G12D biomarker. Now, with recent advances in KRAS treatments, I have hope! There are drugs that may become the next treatment options when my cancer starts to grow/spread again.
It has been one year since my lung removal surgery. I have run every day since March 25, 2020. Every day is a blessing. Every day is also an opportunity for more advances in treatments for people like me. I want to live long enough to see us #KickCancersKRAS!
Each month, KRAS Kickers is pleased to present a Survivor Story. 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. None of us are in this alone, and we all have a story to tell.