By Jodie Geary
July 26, 2021
My journey with Stage IV lung cancer started in early June when I started to feel dizzy and eventually developed double vision. I didn’t think it was out of the ordinary because I thought it was vertigo. Shortly after I started noticing that I would lose my balance, and began having issues swallowing. At this point I sought out medical attention at an urgent care and was told it was vertigo. I was sent home with some pills and told to come back in a week if there was no improvement.
The pills worked for a short amount of time but did not get rid of symptoms so I went back to urgent care for a second time. This time I was given steroids. A few days later I started noticing I was staggering to both sides when I was walking. At this point, I knew that an ER visit was warranted. Upon a multitude of tests and scans, there was a mass discovered in my lung. The neurologist admitted me to the hospital to complete an MRI scan – this scan revealed an additional mass in my brain stem. With this knowledge, I knew I needed to seek out the best possible care available and very quickly found my way to Penn Medicine, where I met with a doctor two days later.
The doctor at Penn Medicine confirmed that my diagnosis was Stage IV lung cancer. I was immediately admitted for further testing, scans, MRI, blood work, and a biopsy of the lung. The biopsy revealed that it was not small cell lung cancer. Upon waiting for the results of the biopsy, it was decided that the symptoms from the brain stem mass needed to be addressed immediately. The doctors put together a plan to do an outpatient procedure with gamma knife radiation.
While waiting for that procedure, the results of the blood test revealed that I had a marker for a genetic mutation called EGFR which had a targeted therapy available. The plan moving forward was to proceed with the gamma knife first and begin the targeted therapy the next day.
I am now in the recovery stages from my treatments and will be taking the targeted therapy once a day the rest of my life and continue with scans every three months in the near future. Through the donations of others to clinical research for targeted therapies, my journey has been made manageable and allowed for myself and millions of others’ lives to be saved.