A Ray of Sunshine and Hope for Patients With Cancer

Lung Cancer Heroes®, CURE® Lung Cancer Heroes® 2021 Essay Book, Volume 2,

A patient with stage 4 lung cancer explains why Dr. Shirish Gadgeel is a ray of sunshine and hope who makes patients with cancer feel that living a long life is a possibility.

On March 28, 2020, I felt dizzy and fell at work, so they sent me to the emergency room for tests. I was sure it was vertigo because what else could it be at the age of 57? The doctor came into the room and said, “I know why you’re dizzy. You have a brain tumor.”

I had to be hearing things. I was a pretty healthy person, so this just couldn’t be. COVID-19 had just gotten bad, and I now had to face this and future treatments/surgeries alone.

I had emergency surgery to remove the brain tumor that was wreaking havoc on my life. The next day, I found out it originated in my lung. They had to have the wrong patient. Processing a brain tumor was one thing, but lung cancer was another. I have played the flute and have been singing professionally for over 40 years. My lungs get plenty of exercise, and I have never smoked. There had to be a mistake, but there wasn’t.

I was assigned an oncologist who spoke to my family and me virtually, explaining that I had stage 4 lung cancer. I had lost family members to both lung and brain cancer, and I was terrified. My mind immediately turned to distributing my most prized possessions and making sure my husband was going to be OK. The oncologist they assigned to me was a brilliant man but very quiet, and I had a lot of questions. My Bachelor of Science degree is in biology, and my mission was to learn all I could about this monster invading my body. I was my best advocate and was now in for the fight of my life, literally.

My doctor started me on chemo and radiation treatments. In the beginning, I didn’t question the treatment plan because, after all, he is the doctor and I am the patient. My tumor was tested for a biomarker — what was causing the tumor to grow — and I tested positive for a mutation in the ALK gene. I joined some Facebook groups with people going through exactly what I was. There I found others with their boxing gloves on, fighting for their lives too, and the support was awesome.

In these groups, a certain oncologist’s name kept coming up here in Michigan: Dr. Shirish Gadgeel. I made an appointment with him, and that’s when my life changed completely. He is a ray of sunshine and hope because his knowledge of the ALK gene is abounding. He makes me feel that living a long life is a possibility. His attitude and personality are second to none. He is involved in research with doctors worldwide to develop our lifesaving medications.

I have a doctor out on the field coaching me, rooting for me and guiding me. He is going to give me the plays, and I will execute them. He is going to lead me to a victory of hopefully a long life with an illness that gave very little hope not long ago. I want to see not only my grandkids grow up but enjoy my future ones. I don’t want them to meet me as a picture on my piano, and I’m not ready to die at 57 because I have a lot to give.

I was dealt this hand of cards for a reason, and it’s my quest to find my purpose. They say having a positive outlook as a patient with cancer is very important. I feel that I have that and more with Dr. Gadgeel on my side.

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