Profiles in Lung Cancer – Day 19

Welcome to the November 19th Edition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2015. Trying to understand what is going on in November – read November 1st blog post.

I am happy to connect you all with fellow lung cancer survivor Anne Gallagher.


Anne Gallagher spends her days as a patient navigator at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute in Eugene, Oregon. She is a valuable team member dedicated to all kinds of cancer patients, keeping a close eye on them to ensure that they receive great care in all areas of health.

Her professional career in healthcare began 11 years prior in Women’s Health. The transition to oncology came shortly after Anne’s own cancer diagnosis in 2002 at age 25; clearly a shock and turning point in her life.

Diagnosed with early stage neuroendocrine lung cancer, surgery was recommended. Specifically, removal of two lower right lobes. Surgery was successful. Remission achieved. Fast forward to 2008. Reocurrence takes place; now cancer takes up residence in the upper right lobe, the only remaining real estate up for grabs on the right side. In response, her medical oncologist prescribes an injectable anticancer agent, to be administered every 28-days. From this point forward, with only one brief interruption, Anne receives an injection every 28-days to control her cancer. Sounds easy, right? Not so much. The injection is managing Anne’s extremely rare type of lung cancer while it slowly causes bone damage and extreme fatigue.

Suddenly, it was clear. The cancer clarity. A calling of sorts. If she was to stay in healthcare it was imperative to be directly in contact with oncology patients.

Anne regularly attends the national LUNGevity Hope Summit in Washington, D.C. More often than not she has a speaking role at the event. The Summit is meaningful to her, it is the first place where she talked to someone who had the same surgery she had. Sadly, it was six years post surgery. She, as well as her oncologist, continue to be on the look out for an individual with her same kind of cancer.

“You don’t have to yell to make a lot of impact.” Anne says.

So true. It is her calm and inviting presence that draws people in. Her laugh is like a perfect mug of hot cocoa. It is sweet, warms you from within, brings a smile to your face; something you want to hold onto with both hands. She is an attentive listener. An old soul. Although don’t be fooled by her innocent look. If you don’t pay careful attention you may find yourself getting into late night mischief with her.

Anne gives her all at work and she doesn’t mind. “I feel like I’m here to take care of others,” she says with pride while wearing a grin. Clearly she gets great satisfaction from her career as she spends much of her diminished by cancer treatment energy there. With what remains, it is dedicated to family time. A proud aunt to five and sister to three. “My siblings are my best friends.”

“I’m no Mother Teresa,” she says with a laugh, “but I try to think the same way!”

Anne is a good egg. She is always on-time but doesn’t wear a watch. She’s classic like her favorite dessert, brownie a la mode. Without a doubt she is an asset to the lung cancer community.

Read Day 18 Profile HERE

Read Day 20 Profile HERE

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Profiles in Lung Cancer – Day 6

Welcome to the November 6th Edition of Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2015.  Trying to understand what is going on in November – read November 1st blog post.

I am happy to connect you all with fellow lung cancer survivor Jessica Steinberg (@chemosabemomma)

Facebook timeline 2 copy

If you are out and about in the Portland area you might encounter this dynamic woman on the Portland State University campus where she is working towards a second masters degree, this time in Social Work. If you happen to be just South of town, chances are good you’ll bump into her while in single parent mode. Parenting two boys, 10 and 13 who’d most likely describe mom as embarrassing, as she is juggling 16 items, 4 of which she forgot to write down and may likely be forgotten. If you are anything like me, you see Jessica at Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health and Science University where she checks in with her much liked Medical Oncologist while waiting for her next cycle of of her ALK+ cancer controlling targeted therapy pills. Alectinib, slated for FDA approval, has been successfully managing her cancer burden since February 2014.

Jessica is no stranger to other forms of cancer treatment for her Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). After her lobectomy in 2011 uncovered that she had advanced NSCLC, she has subjected herself to various chemotherapy agents, radiation, whole brain radiation, and targeted therapy to combat the cancer.

In her own words, “Cancer picked the wrong bitch!”. Her bold and daring personality teamed up with her natual ability to entertain makes her a successful advocate for the Lung Cancer Community. As a Caring Ambasadors active board member, she courageously speaks at the Oregon State Capital – demanding statewide attention to lung cancer. She also sees the need for what she calls “sidewalk advocacy” by running errands in her custom made t-shirt exclaiming “this is what stage 4 lung cancer looks like” that reguarly becomes a conversation piece. (If you are interested in a t-shirt leave a comment below for Jessica.) It seems that no task is too grand or too insignificant for her when it comes to advocacy.

Some of Jessica’s favorite movies include “Life is Beautiful”, “Like Water for Chocolate”, and “E.T.”, which are very different than her favorite written trilogy, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”.

I will not be surprised at all when I hear in the not-so-distant-future that Jessica is a social worker in oncology, ensuring a positivie relationship exists between patients and doctors.

Family was, is, and will always be, what comes first for her. Her motivation, inspiration, and mindset come from her family and their needs. A close second is “Jessica’s Army”. A core group of friends that provide support of all kinds to Jessica and her boys. And if you are wondering, yes, Captain America, the 2011 version, is a member. (I am jealous.)

Jessica is consistent. What you see is what you get. I do hope that one day, far from now, she will be sourrounded by her boys, their partners, and possibly grandchildren; wearing her “this is what stage 4 lung cancer looks like” t-shirt and cozy black pants which are covered in cat hair.

Read Day 5 Profile HERE.

Read Day 7 Profile HERE.

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Lung Cancer Awareness Month 2015

kw speakingYup, November is the month, Lung Cancer Awareness Month. In this month, the great month of November, those of us impacted by Lung Cancer unite. Every day this month, a group of bloggers will be profiling people advocating on behalf of the lung cancer community.

Each blog post will have links to the previous day’s post, and point you in the direction of the next day’s post. This experience is intended to be fun and showcase a tiny fraction of those affected by lung cancer. Have fun with it! Enjoy!

Day 1 can be found here.

A list that will contain links to all posts can be found here.

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The Going is Getting Good

Trend: Upward and excellent.

Cause: Two successful speaking events and one brain MRI that shows SRS did its job.

FullSizeRender-20Current Status: Designing next glass project; investigating what went wrong with my flat as a pancake, chocolate-banana bread.     Huh.

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Is It Working?

Yesterday, while at an appointment at Brenda Kay Hair Specialties the shop owner, Brenda, asked me about my cancer.

I’m very comfortable and open about my disease; sharing my story is my way of being an advocate. I touched on taking an oral targeted therapy, alectinib, that will soon be approved by the FDA. Confusion – all over her face.

“Oh, the pill I am taking is offered through a clinical trial.  It should be approved soon.  I am actually going to Florida next week to talk about my life on this drug.  I am a huge fan…it works great.”

Brenda asked, “Really?  How do you know it is so good?”

I started to chuckle and say, “I’m able to see you!”New Do

When the laughter died down between us, she gave me a look, the look of I’m still waiting for an answer.

“I have stage 4 lung cancer.  To be out and about, going and doing, laughing about loosing my hair, is a big deal.  Who knows where I’d be if I didn’t have this pill.”

“Wait.  You have stage 4…. stage 4 lung cancer???”

Exactly.  That reaction is precisely how I know that this drug is working.

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Come on Get Happy

It might be here. Happiness that is! After a not-so-fun summer, fall is already looking better.

W's at Beach

The wonderful cabin in the woods at Manzanita was our home for a few days to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Simple. Easy. Cozy. Block walk to the beach. Hot tub included. Perfection. A great place to end up post-brain radiation.

Energy levels are still suppressed from that pesky brain radiation. I have faith that in time my body will be back into an acceptable level of “shape”. Faith – in my own drive. My desire to be satisfied with my fitness ability. Hopefully, lagging only a short distance behind, will be liking what I see in the mirror and able to wear all the pants in the bottoms drawer.

I have been getting a kick out of cooking dinner for SW and myself. Thanks to a lovely lady that introduced me to Blue Apron. Blue Apron delivers ingredients and original recipes to your home. No grocery shopping required + no trying to figure out what to make = no brainer.

Books. I’m loving books right now. I, like many teens, am counting down the days until the 4th book in Lunar Chronicles is on the shelves. Winter will be out in November. I should be done with my stack of 5 other books before that. Maybe.

Things are headed in the right direction. They at least feel like they are which is good enough for me right now.  I will find out in 3-weeks if the brain SRS was effective.

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PDX Regional Hope Summit 2015

Nothing like a last minute announcement!  Thankfully I have a non-disputable excuse, brain SRS.


One more day until Lungevity Regional HOPE Summit Northwest- survivorship conference for people impacted by lung cancer. There are a few seats left- so register now.

Arrive between 9:30-10am at the Marriott Downtown Waterfront (Mount Hood conference room) in Portland.  This is a free event but all attendees must be registered.

For more information, please visit the registration site at

It’s going to be a HOPEtastic event!


Looking forward to connecting with you there.


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Being Flexible

I am flexible when it comes to plant and yard care.  A little of this, a little of that, no set plan. Occasionally I’ll refer to The Google or my Master Gardner friend Marcia. It works for me. Keeps it fun, light, and a few steps shy of very well taken care of.

I am not so flexible with my body.  Yoga helps – with regular practice. My right hip is always a trouble spot. A pesky joint that I often refer to as my storage container.

I am super flexible when it comes to meeting friends at an adjacent neighborhood wine tasting room Every Day Wine. A good time is always had gabbing at the bar with strangers or friends alike.

After years of training, I have become flexible with cancer stuff.  Details like size…is it 4 mm or 7mm?  or chemo…but I was supposed to have 8 cycles of chemo?  I have learned that timing is critical. The right time is out there, be flexible, it will come. Appointments get set. A date. A time. A plan. Be flexible.

Calls from your oncologist before/after business hours should be answered. Not flexible.

This week’s before 8 a.m. call was from radiation oncologist Dr Holland, my brain zapper guru. A tumor board discussion regarding my high resolution brain MRI resulted in a plan change.  The scheduled one day zap today, is no longer.

New plan is 5 days of brain SRS. Scheduled for Thursday (this afternoon) Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  More grays over more days – with a break for Labor Day weekend of course.

*** Thanks for sending me all those well wishes***Keep them coming***

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Cold Before the Storm

July was a pretty rough month; August, only slightly better.

FullSizeRender-18I have a cold. For a few days now. Tissue boxes and waste baskets are stashed in my favorite indoor sitting spots. No more energy to spend on stress-relief baking. I’m focusing on the basics like making tea and reheating leftovers.

Last week the air quality was quite poor. Haze caused by nearby forest fires hung over the city. Could be the cause of my sniffles and cough. Or the brain radiation scheduled for this week has worked me into a tizzy.

Thursday I have SRS (stereotactic radiosurgery) on a brain spot. I knew it was coming, I was practically expecting it while simultaneously wishing it would all just go away. Poof. Gone. Would be nice.

Now the goal is poof, gone, via SRS.

Zapping takes place Thursday, 7:30am.  Lines are open NOW to accept good juju and positive thoughts any way you wish to send them!

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Memorial Speaking

Yesterday, I spoke at a memorial service for the first time, A Living Legacy Memorial Celebration for Marcy Westerling.

MW bike

I have experience with public speaking and lately the topic revolves around my experiences living with metastatic lung cancer. Now, 4-years plus living in cancer land, I can get through the highs and lows with little emotional response. Not the case yesterday at the memorial.

Crafting my speech I second-guessed nearly every line I typed. I struggled to find the perfect words. SW reminded me ‘be you, that’s what Marcy would want’. Attempting to abort the entire difficult endeavor, I sent an email to the co-organizer saying I’d be happy to step down if they had too many speakers. Nope. I was speaking and near the end after a video of Marcy, just before Mike, Marcy’s spouse.  ….okay…?!

I spoke my standard ‘short, to the point, make you laugh, make you cry, and give you something to think about’ style.  I got through without tears and making eye contact with the audience most of the time.

Upon completion, after two hugs to the co-hosts, I took my seat in the front row.

It wasn’t until 1:17 am, 9-hours after the event, when the bulk of emotions hit me. Sad. So sad. Grieving. Tears pooling. I missed my friend. Grinning about dropping an F-bomb in a church. (I swear Marcy made me do it!) Thinking about Mike, knowing that one day, chances are good, SW will be in his same shoes. The topic that consistently makes my guts clench and takes my breath away.

I managed to get some sleep once the hamster in my brain stopped running on its wheel.

Like I said in my speech… You take a risk investing in relationships with people who have terminal cancer. You place yourself in a vulnerable zone. It often ends sadly and it can be painful.  And, it will be worth every bit of it.

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