Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone is doing well. Gwen has recently met with her doctors here in Raleigh to discuss the treatment plan moving forward. Not being present at the appointments, I am not exactly clear on all the details, but from what I am getting from my mom and Gwen is that they are going to put off chemo for now.

At present, Dr. G. does NOT recommend weakening Gwen’s immune system unless absolutely necessary, especially with COVID numbers on the rise. The plan is to wait and reassess after she gets scanned again in a few months. In the meantime, she is strengthening her dose of current medication. Gwen feels good about this plan.

And for some fun news, the Lung Cancer Initiative gave Gwen’s name to the Carolina Hurricanes for their “Hockey Fights Cancer” month festivities and as such, Gwen was surprised with a visit from Stormy this morning. This also meant that Callie’s class got to see Stormy remotely as she was in the middle of online learning at the time! The visit included a lovely gift basket that contained items she might share with her Canes obsessed niece Kenlee, and a message of support from the Hurricanes.

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Kenlee ❤ Gwen

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and please stay healthy and safe!

It’s Lung Cancer Awareness Month!

I cannot even remember our last update! It has been quite a year for everyone for sure. Like everyone else, we have been hunkered down with Quarantine 2020 and there hadn’t been much need for an update. We were able to spend some time in NY this summer up at the lake – the COVID cases in that area were slim to none, and we pretty much kept to ourselves at the beach. Gwen, Justin, and Callie did a little bit of travelling with their camper on their way north and ultimately rented a campsite for a month near the lake so we could stay physically distant at night and on rainy days. Thankfully, we had wonderful weather this summer!

Lachlen and Callie enjoying the old-school swing set at the campground

Gwen has continued with her routine scans, doctor appointments, and trips to Boston; although she is now driving to Boston instead of flying. One of the scans that Gwen gets is a bone scan. From the very start of this journey, we knew that there were spots on her bones, and Gwen gets a shot every so often to help strengthen her bones to combat the cancer that is hanging out there. Over the past several months, doctors noted that one of the spots on her femur appeared to be growing. Due to the importance of this bone in carrying weight, it was determined that radiating it would be the best course of treatment. About a month ago, Gwen went through 10 daily radiation treatments on this spot. She tolerated the radiation well – only complaining about some pain after sitting for long periods of time which we are doing a lot right now with remote teaching but that is a whole other blog post.

Those lovely black blobs on her bone and in her hip are the cancer

That pretty much brings us up to this past week when she had her next round of scans. Unfortunately, another spot was found on her shoulder. She and Justin are in Boston right now and have met with doctors there about the next course of action. They will meet with Dr. G. here in Raleigh next week to finalize a plan, but as of today, it is looking like IV chemo in addition to the medication she is currently on will be the treatment. This is not what any of us wanted to hear.

For our long-time followers, you may remember that Gwen started on chemo right away, but she never finished that treatment because it was discovered that she had a genetic mutation. Since she never completed this, chemo is still an option for her, but it has always been the goal to seek other medicinal options as much as possible. Gwen REALLY doesn’t want to do this, as you can imagine, as she has been very blessed to have had such a positive response to the other treatment options.

Thank you for keeping her in your prayers as she navigates this new chapter in her fight against this awful disease.

Let’s Try Something New!

Thank you to everyone who has asked about Gwen. We all appreciate your support and prayers so much!

This spring, Gwen received a white ribbon – part of the White Ribbon Project . She was super excited to receive this and help support this project which aims to reduce the stigma of lung cancer.



Gwen, Justin, and Callie have been traveling and making their way up north with an ultimate goal of reaching Boston. And now they are stuck with us at camp.

As mentioned in the previous post, Gwen has been approved for a single-patient clinical trial of Repotrectinib which is the first drug targeted to the ROS-1 and G2032R mutations. We are all very excited that she has been approved to try this treatment, and she received her first dose on July 9th!

Gwen had been feeling some soreness in her hips but has already begun feeling less sore since starting Repotrectinib. Unfortunately she is feeling some fatigue and has experienced some change in her sense of taste- especially with sweets. She said the bite of ice cream she had tonight was “gross” which is practically unfathomable to this family! Needless to say, she is pretty bummed out about that.

Gwen will return to Boston on July 23rd for more blood work and to get more medication. The plan will be to increase the dose from one a day to two a day. She will get scans again in late August.

May in Boston

Gwen had another appointment in Boston yesterday. We took advantage of the appointment to have a girls’ weekend with mom, sister Kristen, Gwen, and I. We had a great time together and the weather was amazing! We crammed in as much walking as I could handle, met up with our cousin Lee on Sunday, and managed not to get lost.

Some background/timeline information to catch us all up leading into the appointment:

-November 2020: blood biopsy performed with inconclusive results

-February 2021: routine scans showed new growth

-April: repeat blood biopsy showed positive for a mutation

-May: scans showed additional lesions especially on the spinal column, a spot on her shoulder bone that is growing, and that the few spots that were radiated seemed smaller. The non-bone areas were stable (abdomen, lungs, brain).

The blood biopsy revealed what is called a ROS-1 G2032R resistance mutation. Bad news: This basically means the cancer cells are outsmarting the medication. Good news: There is a new medication in phase 2 of clinical trials that is specifically targeted to the ROS-1 G2032R mutation. This is the first ROS-1 specific drug. Bad news: Gwen does not qualify for the trial due to having been on 2 other targeted medications and having had some chemo in the past.

Going into the appointment yesterday, the hope was to find a way to get the medication anyway. We were instructed to cry if necessary. Fortunately, it did not come to that as the doctors in Boston and Raleigh decided that this new medication, Repotrectinib, was still a good option for Gwen.

It will take a few weeks to jump through the paperwork hoops, which left Gwen still feeling anxious, but for now we know her current medication is still doing ok controlling the cancer in the other parts of her body.

Radiation (again)

So this is a little overdue – partially due to my own forgetfulness. Gwen has met with her Raleigh and Boston doctors and it was determined that it was time to radiate her bone spots. Things were a little bit larger than previously thought, AND a new spot was found on her sacrum. It is ok if you have no idea what this is. I think only a small portion of the population does. So here is a visual for you:

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Upon closer inspection, a hairline fracture was discovered on the sacrum. The hope is the scar tissue that will remain after radiation will fill in the fracture.

She is actually getting radiation on the sacrum, left ilium (hip bone), and right femur. The spots have progressed to the point that a fracture is a concern. The doctors have told her to limit activity in terms of jumping and told her not to fall. I mean, I am not sure about you guys, but I am pretty confident we are all out here trying not to fall… This is the first time she has been put on any kind of physical restrictions, so that has been a little humbling.

Here is a pre-radiation appointment shot of the femur radiation spot:

Apparently, it isn’t as big as it looks

She had radiation this week and will continue next week. She is doing okay. Meanwhile, we are now fully vaccinated, so that is good and we are excited!!!

Gwen Takes the Stage

About a month after Gwen’s big, local ABC11 TV appearance, she had the opportunity to speak at the Lung Cancer Initiative’s Annual Meeting as their “Survivor Speaker.”

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She’s on the program cover!

I felt I was tricked into attending an ANNUAL MEETING, but we got to hear a bunch of cool updates about what projects local doctors and grad students are using their grant monies to fund. It is exciting to think about the advancements that may be coming in the future! The dinner was delicious, and Gwen did a great job sharing her story. The event took place on our Mom’s birthday, so it was nice we didn’t have to make her dinner. We are super thankful for all that these doctors, researchers, and volunteers are doing for lung cancer survivors and lung cancer research.

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She has recently been scanned and had a trip to Boston – all news was that she is “stable.” She continues to have minuscule spots in her lungs and a spot on her femur.

 

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Just yesterday, she ran 4 miles outside – no small feat as the pollen has started here in NC! We are now off school for at least 2 weeks whilst we practice the art of social distancing. Please keep your immuno-compromised and elderly friends, family, and neighbors in your thoughts and prayers! Stay safe everyone!

Gwen is (Locally) “Famous!”

If you are in the greater Raleigh viewing area, please set your DVRs to record or tune in to ABC 11 on Sunday, January 19, 2020 to see Gwen on the 5:00 pm news! She and her doctor were interviewed for a story on lung cancer and the advances in treatment options.

If you can’t tune in, you should be able to watch the story here after it airs.

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Merry Christmas 2019

As usual, it has been several months since our last update. Gwen has been doing well and continues her routine scans in Raleigh, eye check ups at Duke, and doctor appointments in Boston. Recently, her doctor in Boston, Dr. Shaw, has decided to start focusing more on the research side of things. This has been a little upsetting to Gwen as she will continue to go to Boston but will have to see a doctor that she knows nothing about. Dr. Shaw will still be involved in the sense that she will be checking in with the status of her former patients, etc.

If you are a regular reader, you know that Gwen has had some minuscule spots in her lungs that have been closely monitored. These spots are the return of the cancer, however, it has been determined that she is still on the best treatment plan at this time. At her most recent scans/appointments, a spot on her femur “lit up.” ‘‘Tis the season for lights and all, however this isn’t really the type of lit up we like to hear about. Overall, the scans were considered good and everything else was listed as “stable,” so the spots in the lung and the spot on the femur will continue to be monitored, and the current targeted treatment will continue.

We are spending the holiday season in NY visiting our northern friends and family. It has been warm enough for the snow to melt and for the cars and kids to get muddy and gross. Gwen participated in the Cazenovia girls basketball alumni game on the 26th. She had a great time playing against girls who were born the year she graduated from high school and who were still feeling really super competitive. She did score 4 points including a 3 from downtown (!) as evidenced by this celebratory pic:

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This photo also represents our feelings, but especially Gwen’s, as we approach January 2nd, 2020, which will be her five year cancerversary! Given the 5 year survival statistics, which look extra scary due to the smokers who have lung cancer, this anniversary is an exciting milestone for our ROS-1der.

Gwen – 2019

It seems that the past few times I have updated the blog, I have begun with “It has been a while since I have updated the blog…” and this is no exception. I personally have not had the best year health-wise and thus have been a bit of a slacker when it comes to updates, but as they say, “no news is good news!”

Back in March, I was able to travel with Gwen to Boston.

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We had a great trip and had awesome weather for Boston in March. Gwen and I went to her appointment and then spent the day speed-walking the Freedom Trail.

Dr. Shaw was pleased with Gwen’s scans. As with previous reports, brain and abdomen were clear. Both of her lungs have several immeasurable spots that have been stable in size for several months. Since the scans have been stable, Dr. Shaw remains pleased with the current targeted treatment plan (Lorlatinib).

 

This past week, Gwen had another appointment in Boston. Gwen, Justin, and Callie took their time meandering up to Boston.

Again, the report was good – brain and abdomen were clear and those minuscule spots were still present but stable.

They will now be working their way on up to Maine to see the sights before heading back to NY for a few weeks.

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Thank you for being such great supporters throughout Gwen’s journey (and for being patient with her slacker blogger).