By Gary Stumpf
As with many, I accidentally found my lung cancer. Last fall, a persistent cough brought me to the doctor (thanks to my wife’s insistence). A CT scan, followed by a lung biopsy, confirmed I had stage 4 adenocarcinoma. Further testing found a 5 mm “suspicious” area in the front left quadrant of my brain. By the time they approved and scheduled treatment, a gamma knife procedure, only 45 days later, the tumor had grown to 22 mm! During this time, I was still going to the gym routinely with no noticeable effects on my health. This soon changed.
They tested me for specific gene mutations as well as the PD-L1 protein, to see if I was a candidate for immunotherapy treatment. I tested negative on all counts and started IV chemo treatment in December 2016. After just two rounds of chemo they decided to stop because the cancer had spread to both lungs with multiple tumors and another tumor in my brain.
Although it was incredibly hard, I did my best to maintain a very positive attitude, constantly reminding myself that I was going to beat this disease. I continued to go to work, a way to prove not only to myself, but also to others, that I was not going to let cancer control my life.
In March this year, they decided to go ahead and try Opdivo (nivolumab) immunotherapy despite the fact I did not have the protein PD-L1. Two weeks later, when conducting another gamma knife procedure on the second brain tumor, it was noted that this one had not grown at all, an early sign that the treatment was working.
At the end of March, I decided to retire at the age of 64 in order to focus on quality of life and spend time with my family. I got all my affairs and paperwork in order.
After two months of immunotherapy treatment, a CT scan revealed my cancer was now in remission and showed significant reduction! My doctor was notably surprised at the quick results. After the full four months of treatment, cancer was no longer found in my brain and the tumors in my lungs had shrunk by 80%.
I am sharing my story with you because I recently stumbled across the Lung Cancer Alliance website and commented on a blog post about a survivor story. It reminded me that I am not alone in my fight and that there is always hope.
I am now enjoying my retirement, playing golf weekly and fishing while walking 3-5 miles a day. I, now more than ever, prioritize time with my loved ones and a family trip is in the works.
As with any cancer, it could mutate again and treatment may be ineffective but for now, I count my blessings that I have more time to share my story and, hopefully, provide inspiration to others fighting this disease. I hope that my story will not only inspire others, but also contribute to research so that more patients have the treatment opportunities that I have experienced.
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