Dobie Lewis

I am 67 years old.  I live in O’Leary, PEI and in October 2014, I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
It started with pain in my left arm that summer, which I really didn’t look into. One morning I woke up, and could not pick myself up due to the pain. I was taken to the emergency room, and there it was discovered that I had a large tumor on my vertebrae. Further tests were carried out and I got a call from my doctor. He asked, “Are you alone?” Luckily I had my sister with me, and he told me, “You have lung cancer in both lungs, your vertebrae, femur, spine and right rib cage”. That was quite a shock, to say the least.
I was told to come in straight way, and was then sent to Charlottetown for further review and treatment. I had 10 radiation treatments on my vertebrae and responded really well. Initially, I was told there was no further treatment or cure for my condition and was given 2 to 5 months to live. However, when my doctors saw how well I responded to the radiation treatments a decision was made to biopsy the lung tumor to determine if it could be treated.
The tests indicated I had the EGFR mutation, and I was subsequently placed on Tarceva. Before starting treatment, in March 2015, there was progression of the tumor to my hip and I had to have a hip replacement. I also stopped working as my job involved a lot of lifting and I simply couldn’t do that anymore.
For 5 months after my diagnosis, I was unable to get treatment due to lack of provincial funding and sourcing of funds for the treatment. I was eventually able to get treatment, fully covered from the manufacturer after my son contacted them. I was on Tarceva for over 4 years, from March 2015 to August 2019, after which I started to progress. A liquid biopsy was carried out and I was then put on Tagrisso.
Currently, I am still on Tagrisso and have had minimal side effects. The CT scan I had in December showed the tumors were shrinking and current scan in April also looked good.
The care I have received during my lung cancer journey has been extremely good, I feel great, and I am still able to paint and garden. With my husband, son and 4 sisters, I have a good support system and I also belong to online groups that have been quite helpful along my journey.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a scheduled CT scan in March was cancelled. I was worried because it was at the 3-month mark and there was no way to know if the treatment was working. Luckily, my doctor was able to call and ensure that I got the scan done. I worry whether I would get priority treatment if I had to be admitted and there was a lack of bed space. I haven’t seen the kids since Christmas, and even though we facetime with them everyday, it’s not the same.  I don’t go into stores at all. My husband gets the groceries, and there hasn’t been a soul in our house since the pandemic started.
My advice to others would be to try and stay as positive as you can, and don’t even think about giving up. One day, a nurse I was introduced to at the hospital where I was being treated came into my room, caught me by the arm and said, “don’t you let them tell you that you can’t beat this”. I said, “but I have stage 4 lung cancer”. She said,” so did I and I beat it, and you can too.” That gave me hope, and I try to impart the same message to people I know. Even if it is a little ray of hope, just hang on to that. I try not to think too much about the journey, but rather I focus and live for today.
My hope for the future is that a cure is found for lung cancer. I have 2 granddaughters and they need their grammy to be here for them.