December 2023

Five years ago, Amy had a birthday surprise that she never wanted or expected.

She was told that she had Stage 4 squamous non-small cell lung cancer.

Amy explains: “I had a flu shot and 2 weeks later, a lymph node popped up on my neck. I just assumed it was a side effect of the flu shot. After 2 weeks, I realized it was more than a side effect or infection. I went to my Primary Care Doctor, who ordered bloodwork and a CT scan of my neck where the lymph node was. The bloodwork showed a slightly elevated calcium level, no big deal…the CT scan, however, caught a lesion in my right lung.”

At that point, Amy had a CT-guided biopsy on the neck lymph node and was given the unfortunate news on her birthday. Then a PET scan showed her cancer was Stage 4.

Her treatments at the University of Pennsylvania varied. Keytruda, an immunotherapy, did not work for her; she also had radiation on her hips, femurs, and foot; stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) on the lung nodule; and cryoablation on her adrenal gland.

Fortunately, Amy had a lot of support. “I found several support groups online. Having a place to go to follow other people and ask about side effects, vent my worries, and hear all about people surviving longer gave me hope.” In addition, her family gave her strength. “It’s not what they said, it’s the fact that they stayed by my side the whole time.”

Amy learned about LCRF about six months after diagnosis, through one of her Facebook support groups. She has used LCRF’s educational materials and attended webinars such as the #TogetherSeparately series with guest expert speakers.

“I have learned so much about lung cancer. I think knowing as much as you can is part of fighting the fight. You can help others in the same boat with accurate information, as well as talk to your own doctors about the information.”

Amy urges newly diagnosed patients to look for support groups online, such as the Lung Cancer Community Facebook group.

Her advice for those patients: “Do not automatically think you’re not going to be alive in a year. You may live longer than what the internet says – or even what you may think and feel.”