The morning of September 8, 2017 started like any other for Wes Graves and his family. Wes had been experiencing a cough for nearly one year. After seeing numerous medical providers who initially believed his cough was due to allergies, Wes and his wife, Melissa were able to convince one of his providers to order a low-dose CT scan of his chest and lungs. The results showed abnormal tissue in his lungs and the next step was a biopsy.
When they received the results off the biopsy, they were devastated. Melissa said, “It was that moment when you literally gasp to inhale the air that was abruptly taken from you. At age 51, after serving in the military, working in the public service industry as a corrections officer, and most importantly getting married and having children (five to be exact), Wes was diagnosed with lung cancer.” Melissa shared, “Wes never smoked, but we learned quickly that lung cancer doesn’t care if you smoked or not. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.”
Wes and his family waited anxiously for several days to receive reports about the final pathology and additional imaging studies. His PET scan showed that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes leaving him with a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis. After receiving this news, Wes and Melissa began the process of identifying a treatment plan. While they waited for the results of genetic testing (which took several weeks), Wes received two treatments of IV chemotherapy. Finally, in November, his genetic testing was complete, and results identified an opportunity to target a specific gene that was felt responsible for his cancer. Targeted therapy works by targeting specific genes or proteins to help stop cancer from growing and spreading. These genes and proteins are found in cancer cells or in cells related to cancer growth, like blood vessel cells. Doctors often use targeted therapy with chemotherapy and other treatments.
A new medication and clinical trial has offered Wes, Melissa and their five children additional time. They know now that time is precious, limited and finite. They are thankful for each day and continue to pray that new treatments will emerge from current lung cancer research.
Excerpt from Melissa’s Journal:
Wes and I don’t know how long we have together. Reality is – none of us do. See, we have an expiration on Wes’s treatment. Eventually the cancer mutates and figures out how to overcome the treatment. We have an expiration, but the timeline is not clear. So, what do you do when you have been given a certain, but undefinable expiration? We live today. We make memories. Remember how his hug feels. Remember what his laugh sounds like. Remember what his hand feels like. Remember what he smells like. Remember him.