Laurie Herje began noticing an annoying and persistent cough in April of 2016. She visited the doctor multiple times and was prescribed different medications throughout the summer. After months of treatments for a yet undiagnosed problem, she decided that she was done. She did not want to continue to be medicated. She felt worse than ever and was tired all the time.
That fall, Laurie went hiking with her family. Normally a fast walker who regularly exercised, she was perplexed when she had trouble walking up a gentle incline. She said, “I knew it wasn’t in my mind. I had pain in my ribs and something was going on with my lungs.” After returning to her doctor, more tests were performed and the doctor said to her, “I’m not sure what’s going on here. I’ve never seen such an abnormal chest x-ray.” Laurie recalls an immense feeling of discomfort as she waited for more tests. Finally, a lung biopsy was performed and stage 4 lung cancer was confirmed. Her lungs were full of tumors and the cancer had metastasized to her brain and bones. Laurie started chemo. Two weeks later, she received the good news that her blood work tested positive for an EGFR mutation. This meant she would be able to add targeted therapies along with chemotherapy.
Laurie has been battling lung cancer for two years now. She has been on and off chemotherapy and is beginning a new targeted therapy. New blood work has shown a different mutation. She continues to fight. No one mentioned lung cancer to Laurie before the biopsy. Lung cancer was not on her radar or her doctor’s. She was a healthy and active non-smoker and like tens of thousands of other nonsmokers with lung cancer, she is not on the radar. Laurie is frustrated. She shared, “If only I had understood how many nonsmokers get lung cancer, or known what the symptoms of lung cancer look like. I don’t smoke. I eat well and I exercise, but none of that other stuff mattered.” Laurie asks, “Why isn’t lung cancer testing part of the five-month ruling out process? They told me it wasn’t part of the protocol. What protocol? They prescribed multiple drugs. They put me on steroids. They thought it was an infection, why? We need to fix the protocol. If you have symptoms that you don’t normally have, we need to get in there and really figure out what is going on.”