Evangeline’s story

Lung Cancer

On top of the world

I was a busy Accountant operating my own accounting practice and other businesses all of which were thriving in 2016. I was one of the 2015 Gold Coast Women in Business Awardees of Merit. My husband and I bought my new car, our house and my spacious office all in same year! I was success driven and it was all happening very well for me. It was MY TIME after raising two beautiful daughters, after supporting my parents and doing all the study and work experience needed to be CPA in public practice.

In October 2016, despite my busy schedule, I booked in a doctor’s appointment to have my heart checked as I was experiencing occasional chest pain. I also let my Doctor know that I had intermittent pain in my tail bone over the past year. Surely the motorcycle ride with my husband from the Gold Coast to Hunter Valley in March 2015 wasn’t responsible for this lingering pain? Throughout 2015-2016, I started to feel fatigue and occasional chest, neck and shoulder pain. To manage my fatigue and pain I started to have regular massages and a quarterly injection of Vitamin B.

My diagnosis

I had no clue that my lung (left) was responsible for these combined symptoms of fatigue, chest, neck and shoulder pain! My life changed in just one breath when my Doctor diagnosed me with a rare type of lung cancer that was inoperable, incurable and terminal. My oncologist said my life will be short and I was too afraid to ask how short it will be. It was the moment when my world stool still! I will always remember the pain and tears from my husband’s face as well as my daughters and my close friends. This was not the first time that my life was impacted by cancer. In 2003 my husband was diagnosed with leukemia. Fortunately for us he was diagnosed at an early stage and he now lives a normal healthy and active lifestyle thanks to the pill Glivec which was on a clinical trial then. Unfortunately for me, and others in the same situation as me, my cure is still to be invented.

My type of rare lung cancer is called ALK+ (Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase) and it is usually not diagnosed until stage 4, by which time the cancer has already spread. Nearly all ALK+ lung cancer patients were NON smokers, active, healthy and younger. The targeted chemo pill which I am currently taking is working however the median is only 11 months before cancer starts to progress again. Fortunately the second pill was approved last February 2017 and the third should be available shortly. These pills will assist in prolonging my life but after a period of time becomes ineffective. The five year survival rate for stage 4 is less than 5%.

On top of cancer

Living with lung cancer has taught me so much about taking care of myself and living to the fullest. I am driven by participating in my well-being and focusing on the true meaning of life. I have made radical changes since diagnosis and that includes only working part-time, changing my diet, doing regular exercise, regular acupuncture and most of all educate myself on dealing with my illness. Though I can’t be cured, I can still be feel better, go on holidays and have a more fulfilling life. I try to stay positive and not be bothered by the short life diagnosis. Part of my cancer journey is giving back to my community by being an advocate for lung cancer through charity events, media exposure, committee/organisation memberships and connecting with patients and carers. I have created a Facebook support page called Love Our Lungs (LOL) with the hope of providing support for other cancer patients and their families. The site also allows me to to share my journey with my family and friends who have been my greatest support in my new life of living with cancer.

I now live with the hope that more medical advancements will be made and that within my lifetime lung cancer will be a chronic rather than a terminal disease. I am determined to make the community aware of the devastating nature of this disease. Lung cancer can happen to people who have never smoked in their life like me.

Sharing your personal experience with lung disease is a compelling and inspiring way for others to learn about and cope with their diagnosis. Your story may also encourage people to identify and act on symptoms they are experiencing, which may otherwise have been ignored.

Share your story, here.