Little did Leslie* know when she met Grant for lunch to discuss a mutual friend that he would become her supportive companion during her journey of overcoming. Soon after their lunch meeting, Leslie and Grant began dating.
* Her real name, used with permission.
The neck pain Leslie began experiencing in January of 2014 didn’t alarm her at first as she’d dealt with neck and back pain in the past. Deep tissue massages did little to ease the pain. While being adjusted at the chiropractor, she heard a loud pop followed by severe pain.
A few weeks later while enjoying lunch with friends, Leslie said, “I can’t stand this pain.” Her friend urged her to see an orthopedist. After trying pain medicine with no improvement, the orthopedist recommended she try physical therapy.
After three weeks of physical therapy, Leslie returned to her orthopedist who then ordered an MRI. The orthopedist called her to tell her the radiologist felt he saw something, possibly a tumor on a bone in her neck, but he wanted her to follow up with her general care practitioner (GCP).
After reviewing the MRI results with her GCP the next day, he recommended she schedule an appointment with the Kennestone STAT clinic. Those doctors reviewed her case and asked to meet with her. She took her daughters and Grant with her as anticipating their news made her a nervous wreck.
When the doctor said, “You definitely have lung cancer. You need to have a PET scan to target the area,” Leslie remembers feeling numb. Uncontrollable crying mixed with difficulty putting sentences together left her in a state of shock.
“Life as I knew it stopped. I couldn’t control it. And I couldn’t fix it. This would be the first moment of my new life,” she remembers.
When she and Grant talked about her diagnosis later that evening, Leslie said, “You know, if you want to get out, now’s the time. We aren’t in love. I’m going to die. No one would think bad of you.”
Grant grabbed her hand, looked in her in the eye, and replied, “I’m in it for the long haul.”
When she met with the oncologist, he reviewed the MRI and saw a puffy red area on the right side of her chest. She asked, “Why do I have pain in my neck if I have lung cancer?” He explained that cancer is based on origin, and hers originated in the lungs.
He reviewed the PET scans and said, “I don’t have good news. You definitely have stage 4 adenocarcinoma, a type of lung cancer. There is one tumor in your neck and four in your lungs. There is no remission and no cure. I’m guessing you have six months to a year. Five years if you’re lucky.” Again, processing his words was difficult.
Leslie’s mom, Lois, was diagnosed with stage 4 mesothelioma lung cancer in 2010 and passed away within six weeks. Thoughts of her mom went through her head when the doctor delivered her diagnosis and prognosis.
“From the very day I was diagnosed, I knew the answer to the question where I would go if I died. I was never afraid, because the spirit of God assured me I would be in heaven. Thinking of the earthly things I would miss like being with and watching my grand babies grow up made me sad. I cried over those things daily, but never once was I afraid to die. There is a beautiful place prepared for me. This gave me such comfort,” she shared.
Leslie’s daughter set up a Facebook page titled Gathering Prayers for Granna a few days after her diagnosis as a means of sharing updates about her journey. Friends and family from far and wide joined Leslie’s journey. Light blue LESLIE bracelets reminded them to pray for her. Numerous prayers and pics were posted during the year and half the page was active.
At the end of our interview, I asked Leslie to share any advice she had concerning her diagnosis and journey of overcoming. She said, “Share your story. I found that people I didn’t know began praying for me. I felt so blessed by their prayers and words of encouragement. There’s no doubt the power of prayer is a mighty thing.”
Her oncologist recommended radiation and chemotherapy. Her first radiation treatment caused her to have a panic attack as the claustrophobic feeling was overwhelming. Soon after the treatment, Leslie began losing her appetite. Because the treatments were close to her vocal chords, she also lost her voice.
The every three weeks chemo treatments cycle began and caused extreme tiredness, but thankfully she didn’t lose her hair.
In the fall of 2014, Leslie’s breathing became laborious. A trip to the grocery store with her daughter ended abruptly when Leslie had to squat down at the end of an aisle due to labored breathing and weakness. “It was horrifying. I felt like I was beginning to die. That this was it,” Leslie remembers.
Her doctor examined her and offered a pill to help with her breathing, but it came with conditions. “I had to sign a form where I understood this pill could cause me to die sooner than expected. I was scared, but I signed the form and took the pill.”
Leslie felt heavy pain in her chest in January of 2015. Again, she thought this must be it. The ER doctor discovered she needed to have her gallbladder removed.
This was unrelated to her cancer, but she was afraid of having to have anesthesia during the surgery. Afraid of her sick lungs being intubated. Afraid she wouldn’t wake up after being sedated. Her surgery was a success, and the only thing she needed to worry about was finding foods she could eat without a gallbladder.
Just as she recovered from gallbladder surgery, Leslie received some unexpected news about her chemo treatments. “The chemo has stopped working. Two of the tumors are growing. We have a couple of options, but the one I’d like you to consider is a clinical trial,” her oncologist said.
Leslie was nervous about participating in a clinical trial and asked about getting the actual drug instead of the placebo. Her oncologist assured her placebos would not be given on this trial. Testing was completed to determine if she was a genetic candidate for the trial.
She was a match, so she started the trial in May of 2015. Several months into the trial, Leslie’s oncologist was very pleased with the results, even calling her his golden child.
By July of 2015, Leslie was in remission! Her oncologist said, “It’s highly unlikely your cancer will come back.” Leslie, her daughters, and Grant celebrated the fantastic news.
(Leslie will continue her every three week chemo regimen for the rest of her life to ensure she remains cancer free.)
When Grant and Leslie started dating in March of 2014, neither of them could have imagined what challenges they would face. It was obvious from the start that Grant intended to be there for Leslie as she faced cancer and all the ups and downs of treatments. “He was my rock,” she shares.
Full of love for Leslie, Grant proposed in December of 2015, and they married in January of 2016.
During her diagnosis and treatments, Leslie clung to Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
To her, all these things meant remission. She is beyond happy to claim remission. She attributes her prayers combined with the prayers of many, many others to her healing. “Prayer is a mighty thing!”
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