Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Profiles in Lung Cancer - Day 11: Kelly Shannon, "We need to show the world who we are"
Nearly 4 years ago, Kelly Shannon was diagnosed with Stage 4 non-small cell adenocarcinoma with the KRAS mutation (more commonly associated with people who have smoked). Kelly was a 35 year old non-smoker when she was diagnosed in January 2012, and since then has endured numerous types of treatments from traditional chemo to 2 separate clinical trials. There aren't many options for someone with the KRAS mutation, as there are with and EGFR or ROS-1 mutations. She is now a 39 year old single mother raising two children, ages 5 and 7, while jumping from treatment to treatment in order to buy time for a KRAS treatment to come out.
She is currently on traditional chemo that is keeping her tumors stable at the moment. Her longest treatment lasted 1 1/2 years and was a clinical trial where she had to travel from her home in Rochester, NY to Memorial-Sloan Kettering in NYC. It was a very promising clinical trial for Kelly, and it wasn't expected to keep her tumors stable for as long as it did. The doctors don't know why that particular drug worked so well for Kelly. She was the last one on the trial for months, until it eventually stopped working for her, and the tumors had spread too much to allow her to continue. We need more clinical trials like this one, especially for people with the KRAS mutation. While it's been nice not having to travel for treatment, Kelly has hopes that another promising clinical trial will become available for her when it is needed. She will do anything to fight this disease.
A typical day for Kelly consists of waking up very early in the craziness of the morning to get her children off to school. Then, not unlike myself, lays back down to rest. She rests a lot, but tries to maintain a balance so she can still function and get everything she needs to get done and have time to spend with her kids. She feels lung cancer has changed her perspective on life. It's humbling. It has made her appreciate the little things. Yet it is very difficult to function as single mom, go through chemotherapy, and deal with the unknown of her future. Having a mommy with cancer is all her kids have ever known, since they were 1 and 3 when she was diagnosed. That saddens Kelly, but that's the way life is for them. She wishes it were different, but she tries to give her boys a life full of as much normalcy, fun, and love as possible. Though she has her days where she breaks down in tears as well.
Something others may not know about Kelly is she is a t.v. addict. She will binge watch t.v., especially during the cycle of chemotherapy when she's feeling most fatigued. It's her break from reality and helps her get through. She loves the really stupid reality shows. I shared with her my love for the ID channel, which is my own escape. I realize we have a lot in common.
I asked Kelly what she wanted people to know about lung cancer. Her response was the same as I hear from every person who has lung cancer. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. She was misdiagnosed with pneumonia for 6 months, because her doctors never considered that the "healthy, never-smoked, 35 year-old" was at risk for lung cancer. She also wants people to stop the stigma associating lung cancer and smoking. Not only does it hurt all lung cancer funding, but especially hers since her mutation is most commonly associated with smokers. She feels no one deserves lung cancer, smoker or not. We don't blame people for getting other cancers, why blame people with lung cancer?
Kelly's hope stays strong based on the new advancements that are being made in the field of lung cancer research. Since her diagnosis nearly 4 years ago, she's seen a lot of progress in the amount of treatments available, and she appreciates the persistence of advocates that are working hard to increase awareness. She is trying to buy time for the next big thing in lung cancer to save her. Hope for her also comes with the support she receives from family, friends, and even strangers. Whether it be in the form of meals, help with her children, financial donations, or just someone to talk to.
Kelly feels that if others could see the real faces of lung cancer, who we are, more than what has been promoted in the mainstream media, we could get more funding. We need to show the world who we are.
Kelly Shannon pictured above with her two sons
Yesterday's post was by Tori Tomalia at www.lil-lytnin.blogspot.com about Brendon Stiles, MD.
Tomorrow's post will be Craig Blower's blog at www.craigblower.wordpress.com about Karen Loss.
All profiles can be found the day after posting on the #LCSM Chat blog at http://lcsmchat.com/ A list of links to all the profiles on the original bloggers' pages can be found on the #LCSM Chat site on the Profiles for Lung Cancer Page.