My name is Lisa and six years ago my husband, Matt and I came to North Carolina in search of employment. With our two daughters we packed up our things and left our home in Michigan. Little did we know we would find so much more. Both he and I found jobs. We all made a lot of friends and one group who would become very important to me. "They taught me good habits, how to stay strong mentally and physically, how to eat right and how to have a relationship with God. God put me on this journey long before I knew why. He knew that I needed to be here to grow stronger in my faith and meet the MASH family for my next step.
In January 2013 I was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. I remember sitting in the doctor's office looking at the x-ray and thinking that is someone else's. That in NO WAY can be mine. I work out 4 times a week, I eat a strict diet and I have lost 30 lbs since I started working out. Never smoked and drank very little, so what in the world was going on???? I felt my face grow hot then my whole body go numb. I went home sat on the couch started shaking, crying and did not know where to begin. I kept repeating "I don't have a plan...I always have a plan...what do I do???" My husband just kept hugging me and saying "We will figure it out" I then learned that I had a large tumor in my left lung that has spread to both my lungs, liver, kidneys and bones that was caused by genetics. Surgery is not an option at this point due to the nature of how far it has spread.
The next thing I did was confide in my MASH family. My husband and daughters were in shock ...as they should be. I needed some stability, some guidance and they were it! Of course my husband and my daughters are always my rock, but at this point none of us knew what to do.
Then there was the biopsy to determine the type. But then I had to wait for the results...REALLY? WAIT? Are you kidding, this thing is raging throughout my body and I am supposed to chill out to see how to cure it. So I did. Finally, after a week I had the results and my first doctor's appointment. In my mind I am thinking "Whew, now we can make our plan and go forward." I was actually excited to see what needed to be done and how we are going to knock this thing out of existence. Then the resident (a new doctor) came into the room, sat down and proceeded to say..."I'm sorry, what you have is not curable...I will leave you alone for a few to talk with your husband." Then walked out of the room. THAT'S IT? That is the WORST way to give someone a diagnosis about a life changing event, and I know, I'm a nurse!
I went there to find out what we can do, not throw in the towel and say "Oh well, sucks to be me". My other thought was" dude you may not have a cure but God does, and I'm with Him" That night in the shower I went home and sobbed and sobbed because I thought no one would help me. Once I got out, dried off , sat down and thought "Ok ...this is not going to happen this way, God did not put me here to fail at this test I have been given" And so the journey begins...
That night I sat with my husband and researched so many treatment centers, including the hospital I had been at for my initial appointment. We sat down and made a list of the things we wanted out of a treatment center. We narrowed it down to 4 and contacted them as soon as the sun came up. In addition, I called the attending physician from the current hospital I was at and made it clear that I was going all out to save my life. He agreed and we made a plan together.
First, no major IV central line was needed...I had great veins and as long as they would hold out I would receive my medicine that way. "Hurray!" Second, we would start with 6 rounds of IV chemotherapy (Carboplatin and Pemetrexed). But would I tolerate it? Would I lose my hair? Would I be sicker than a dog? Well I guess we will find out. I am sure glad I didn't mind really short hair and I would just have to buy a lot of cute earrings.
Thankfully, I got to keep all my hair and I only became nauseous after my treatments and only got sick once. However, food sounded gross, no matter how hungry I was nothing sounded good or tasted good. But I needed to eat; I was losing weight quite fast, 15 lbs in 2 months. It became exhausting just deciding what to eat. But I shoved whatever I could in my face for calories.
I also worked out 3 times a week, I know you are thinking... "why work out if you are losing weight and not feeling good?" Well, it was a place I could go and feel good and shut out all that was happening to me even if it was for only an hour at a time. It was also one of my support systems, no matter what was happening my MASH family had my back. It also helped me bounce back after my treatments.
The 6th round was the worst. My last IV treatment was on a Tuesday and I couldn't get out of bed until the following Friday. I would get up eat shower and go back to bed. Everything made me nauseous...the sight of the kitchen, the ring of my cell phone, even the sheets on the bed. Chemo really makes your senses do weird things. I remember sitting on the floor of my bedroom crying and thinking " I am sick of this, I can't do this, I am not strong enough. My husband called and said "Yes you can, you have to" But then it hit me, Travis would be so in my face telling me "to get my butt off this floor and get moving, God did not make you to be this way"(in a loving way of course). Between the two of them I got up off the floor and got myself together.
Of course through all of this there were numerous vials of blood work, x-rays, CAT scans and MRI's. So far the blood work was good and the scans showed the small tumors throughout my body and in my lungs were slowly shrinking. But the large tumor where all of this stemmed from in my left lung had barely responded at all.
What is the next step? There was a new drug out (Crizotinib) that was made for the same diagnosis I have but it reacted to a different gene than what was causing mine. But because my gene was similar my physician was able to get me started on it. So after the first 8 weeks of being on this oral chemotherapy twice a day the scans showed great improvement. The large tumor in my left lung had shrunk a little. So we continued this therapy:eight weeks go by and we have another scan. Well, things have stopped. No new tumor growths but no shrinkage either.
Is this good? Yes and no. What is the next step? Radiation? More IV chemo? I am not quite sure. But I do know that I am going to keep looking for answers, to keep praying and to not give up the fight to find a cure!
No matter where this journey takes me I am ready to take on anything .God gives me strength and along with the support of my husband, daughters and MASH family I know we will get through this and there will be something great to come. I don't know what I would do without all of them. They have taught me strength, discipline, determination, kindness and how to glorify God in all I do.
- Chadallen Romero
- Jon Brown
- Sarah Reidy
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