My name is Carole Lu. I am a mom, pottery fiend, and ex-biologist. I have been living with stage IV lung cancer since December, 2013. At that time, I was 37, my family had finally moved into our first house, and our older son had just started kindergarten.
My cancer story began with an innocuous cough that was not too bothersome, and which my doctor chalked up to allergies. After all, I was fairly healthy and had boring annual checkups. I had never smoked, so a lung cancer diagnosis was one of the last things on my doctor’s mind. By the time I was diagnosed three months later, I was coughing a lot more and could barely chase after my two small sons. The cancer had invaded my body. I lit up the PET scan like a Christmas tree.
One of the first things we did was test my cancer for genetic mutations. It took a few weeks, but the results showed that my cancer had a mutation in the ROS1 gene. That made me eligible for treatment with targeted therapy, a drug called crizotinib. The drug worded well in my body, but it does not penetrate the brain. When brain metastases showed up, we added chemotherapy with pemetrexed and carboplatin, and radiotherapy. I am still taking crizotinib and receiving regular doses of pemetrexed. Hopefully these drugs will keep my cancer at bay for as long as possible. When my cancer eventually progresses, our hope is that I will benefit from another drug, likely in a clinical trial. My life depends on cancer research and drug development.
When I started out a couple of years ago, I wondered if I would see my oldest finish kindergarten. I did not dare hope that my treatments would be as effective as they have been. My youngest is in first grade and my oldest is in third grade. My husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary with a visit to Acadia National Park. Most people are surprised when I tell them that I have stage IV lung cancer because I do not look very sick. Living with lung cancer has not been easy, but every day is a bonus I treasure. I am grateful for the care of my wonderful oncologist, Dr. Heist and team at Massachusetts General Hospital, the love and support of my husband, friends and family, and the nearly miraculous cancer drugs made possible by research and innovation.