In early March 2018, Tom came down with the flu. After three days of the aches and pains, he went to Urgent Care. The possibility of lung cancer never crossed his mind. But as it turns out, Tom, his wife Colleen and their three adult children see his bout with the flu as the first of many blessings on a journey that’s brought them closer to one another and God.
Although Tom’s chest sounded clear of pneumonia, the doctor ordered a routine chest x-ray, which revealed a suspicious spot on his right lung. After treating it with antibiotics for ten days, the worrisome spot still appeared on a follow-up x-ray.
A CT Scan confirmed a 5-centimeter mass in the upper lobe of Tom’s right lung. When a subsequent biopsy resulted in a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma, the Steward family’s whirlwind journey with lung cancer officially began.
Mayo Clinic confirmed Tom had Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer that had metastasized to some lymph nodes in his chest, as well as a small lesion on his liver. Lab tests identified an epidermal growth factor receptor mutation (EGFR) that enabled Tom to receive targeted therapy in the form of a pill (Tagrisso) designed to prevent his cancer from growing and spreading.
In July 2018, Tom and Colleen went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to explore treatment options. When scans showed the cancer had not further metastasized, Tom underwent robotically-assisted surgery to remove the upper lobe of his right lung and several lymph nodes. He also received Stereotactic Body Radiation Treatment (SBRT) on his liver and five weeks of radiation to his chest as a precaution.
After two more spots appeared on his liver in January 2019, Tom went on a clinical trial with the targeted therapy Poziotinib at MDA. After confirming Poziotinib proved effective in stabilizing the lesions on his liver and preventing the cancer from spreading elsewhere in his body, Tom underwent SBRT and ablation to eradicate the three lesions in September 2019.
Tom and Colleen feel blessed to be undergoing this challenge at an unprecedented time in the development of new cancer treatments. He continues on Poziotinib and has not experienced any symptoms of the disease to date.
Tom joined A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation at its inaugural Midwest Lung Cancer Summit November 17th. He was a co-presenter in a breakout session focused on finding strength and peace through God’s grace in the uncertainty that accompanies a lung cancer diagnosis.
Knowing that sharing stories like Tom’s will raise lung cancer awareness that can lead to earlier detection, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation gives lung cancer survivors a platform and voice to help us change outcomes.