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. While surgery was not considered an option, lab tests identified an epidermal growth factor receptor mutation (EGFR) that enabled Tom to receive targeted therapy in the form of a pill designed to help stop his cancer from growing and spreading.
In July, Tom and Colleen went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas for a second opinion and to explore treatment options. When scans showed his cancer had not further spread, Tom underwent robotically assisted surgery to remove the upper lobe of his right lung, along with several nearby lymph nodes, all within the margins. He was discharged after three days and back at work—and choir practice—the following week. Subsequently, Tom received intensive stereotactic radiation for the lesion on his liver and five weeks of follow-up radiation to his chest.
Tom and Colleen feel blessed to be undergoing this challenge at an unprecedented time in the development of new cancer treatments. He continues to take targeted therapy daily and is currently considered to have No Evidence of Disease (NED). To date, Tom has not experienced any symptoms of the disease or significant side effects of his treatment.
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.
Tom and Colleen will return to Houston in January 2019 for a three-month checkup, grateful for the prayers and support they’ve received and for the opportunity to encourage increased lung cancer screening.
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.