Alan Soon

Like most families, we’re a busy household with my wife and I balancing demanding professional careers all the while raising two active kids, ages 11 & 14.  Despite the hectic pace, life is good and we are blessed with good health and great support from family.

In January 2019, I developed a cough that would seem to linger for a couple of weeks.  I was previously very healthy, rarely got sick and have never had an overnight stay in hospital.  The cough persisted and my ribs started to ache so I went to my GP in early February who suspected I may have pneumonia so he ordered an x-ray and gave me a prescription for some antibiotics.  I got the x-ray and started on the medications in the afternoon.  That same evening, my GP called and recommended that I go to the ER for further assessment as something on the x-ray didn’t look right to him.  At the hospital, I was told I had a lot of fluid in my chest that needed to be drained before a CT scan could be performed.  After a couple of hours, I was told the scan revealed a mass in my upper right lung and the doctors suspected it could be lung cancer. 

That was the moment my life and the lives of my family changed forever.  Having been a lifelong non-smoker, 46 years old and seemingly in good health, I was completely gobsmacked by this preliminary diagnosis.  Nevertheless, the diagnosis was confirmed a couple of weeks later as I was subsequently diagnosed with Stage IV, Non-Small Cell Adenocarcinoma Lung Cancer.

At the end of February, I met with an oncologist for the very first time.  She explained to me they would be testing my cancer for mutations that could be targeted by specific drugs, but the tests could take up to a month.  By the first week of March, I received a surprise call from my oncologist advising they had found a targetable mutation (EGFR+ Exon 19 Deletion) and I would be able to start on the targetable drug right away.  We were so relieved with this news and grateful that we could start on the treatment, Gefitinib, earlier than expected.  Although the side effects of this daily pill were tolerable, the fluid in my right lung lining continued to build and consequently I needed multiple thoracentesis procedures to drain the fluid.  On my 4th draining, I developed a complication and was hospitalized for 10 nights as some air got trapped between my lung and chest lining, known as a pneumothorax.  After I was discharged from the hospital, a catheter tube was inserted in my side to help drain the fluid, which was performed 3 times a week by home care nurses.  Unfortunately, I was on Gefitinib for only 3 months before a CT scan showed it wasn’t working well as there was some progression. 

My oncologist recommended I change to IV chemotherapy as my next line of treatment, which I started in June.  I have had 6 rounds of double platinum chemotherapy and again was admitted to the hospital after round 1 with some internal bleeding complication.  My doctor added some stomach protectant to subsequent rounds and in August I had another CT scan between rounds 3 and 4.  I’m grateful to report there was a significant reduction in the size of the primary tumour and surrounding lymph nodes.  Moreover, the fluid in the lung lining dried up substantially and the catheter tube was removed after nearly 4 months.  I’m currently on a maintenance program and will be having my next CT scan in soon.

Over the past several months, I’ve learned that this lung cancer journey can be a roller coaster ride at times so it’s important to celebrate victories, big and small.  Our faith has kept us calm throughout these challenging times and I found solace in social media groups, especially a small but caring group of fellow Canadians going through lung cancer – Canadian Lung Cancer Advocacy on Facebook.  As you can see from the sign below, our family motto is around gratitude and counting our blessings.