June 2024

It was October 2019, and Suzanne felt sluggish on one of her morning runs. She typically ran 5-7 miles daily and had collected her share of race medals. “I thought it might be bronchitis brewing, so I visited my doctor for a quick fix as I had a race that weekend,” she said. He took a chest X-ray on a Monday. “By Thursday, after additional scans, I received the diagnosis: stage 4, terminal lung cancer.”

Suzanne was determined: “I don’t remember being scared, just ready to fight. And I had an overwhelming desire to protect my family, especially my husband and daughter.”

A blood biomarker test came up negative, but a tissue biopsy revealed Suzanne’s tumor had the ALK mutation. She started alectinib as her first line of treatment on Thanksgiving that year. Things were stable for almost four years before her cancer progressed in mid-2023. She had another comprehensive tissue biopsy, and a new variant was identified. “I am now on Brigatinib, finished one round of radiation, and on my way to stability once again,” she said.

At first, “I did not want to know anything about my cancer,” Suzanne recalled. “I let the oncology team lead me. I am now knowledgeable about different trials, research, what to do in case of progression, how to handle side effects. I added an ALK specialist to my team, which was crucial since she is the one who detected my progression first. Today, I am the leader of my fight. It took me a year to get there. I admire those who take the reigns right from the beginning.”

Part of her education was connecting with other patients through the #TogetherSeparately Lung Cancer Community group on Facebook, as well as using LCRF’s educational materials. She also found other ALK+ patients. “We have formed an amazing group – ALK Positive – which is a big part of my fight. The connections I have with ALK-positive fighters have supported me throughout this journey. They ‘get it.’ When I am going through something, I just look at those who have had similar experiences. Their courage gives me courage.”

“When fear creeps in (and it does), I try to make my faith bigger than my fear. Also, the amazing research being done gives me hope.”