Terri shares her stage 3A KRAS+ lung cancer story, including experiencing three separate recurrences. She persevered through multiple treatments, including chemotherapy, surgery (lobectomy), and different radiation procedures, to getting to no evidence of disease!
She decided to take the feeling of helplessness and shift it into dedication to patient advocacy. Founder of non-profit group “KRAS Kickers,” she also dives into what patients and caregivers should know, as well as how she navigated her own cancer experience. Terri touches on how she broke the news to loved ones, handled parenting with cancer, and the importance of connecting to a cancer community.
First Symptoms & Tests
Tell us about yourself outside of cancer
I live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and transplanted here from Arizona and from the Chicago suburbs. I have three kids that are all adults and an amazing husband. We play some games and like football. We like to just hang out and enjoy life.
What were the first symptoms
The thing is that when you look back, historically, it makes a little bit more sense. When you’re going through it, you just think, “Oh, it’s an allergy, it’s like a cold.” I’ve had asthma intermittently throughout my life. I went back and forth to the doctor several times and she’s like, “You try doing over-the-counter stuff.” We changed up my asthma medication and still, I was really struggling. We spent quite a bit of time at the beach and it just reached the point where the humidity, it just was oppressive. We went back again to the doctor and like every other busy mom, you just push things off and push it off.
Finally, I went back to the doctor a couple of days before Christmas in 2016. By then, it had turned into full-blown pneumonia. She could hear the fluid in my lungs and treated me with antibiotics. We did an X-ray, at that point. Fortunately, from the X-ray, which is not a really good diagnostic for lung cancer, the fluid showed up and it highlighted the tumor that was in my lungs. We followed up with a considerable amount of testing.
When did you realize things were serious
When they could see the fluid, it made more sense. We went back there and saw what she was talking about, you could very clearly see there was something inside the lung.
At that point, because cancer runs in my family, I was totally convinced it was probably cancer, but I was afraid to say those words.
My doctor said results would come right back in 10 days. That’s when we went back. When I wasn’t feeling better by the first, I knew for sure something was completely wonky. Then we saw the pulmonologist, and went through a long diagnostic period. I had no idea the difference between an X-ray or CT or a PET scan or any of that. You don’t find out until you need to know. It’s really important to understand that.