But for the intense morning sickness and utter exhaustion, Jennifer Frazier’s third pregnancy was unremarkable. Following a c-section delivery, she felt great. A dull pain in her left flank, though annoying was hardly a great concern. Two months later, the pain hadn’t subsided yet, so she paid a visit to her local urgent care. There she was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection – a common postpartum issue. She took the full course of prescribed antibiotics, and while the UTI resolved, the back pain did not.
Three months later, with the pain still there, Jennifer saw her primary care physician. Citing her past history with kidney stones, her physician further explored what might be going on. She was not suffering from kidney stones. A diagnostic chest CT revealed a fairly significant amount of fluid and a 1-centimeter spot on her left lung.
Following a c-section (or any surgical procedure) it is standard medical protocol for the patient to blow into a tube to clear the lungs. Jennifer recalled that she had not done that following the birth of her daughter. Unconcerned, her pulmonologist agreed that might be playing a role. Out of an abundance of caution, however, he sent the fluid sample out for testing. The expectation was that it would come back clear.
Everything looked fine
Two weeks later, Jennifer, with her older daughter in tow, returned for a follow up with the pulmonologist. At the appointment, the doctor reported that he had received everything, except the pathology report. It seemed like everything was fine, and the doctor sent Jennifer on her way.
Not fifteen minutes after she left, she got a call to return to the office – the pathology reports had just come back.
“I knew something was wrong. I arrived back to the office and the doctor asked his nurse to please take my daughter into another room so he could speak with me alone.”
Lung Cancer Back Pain: I knew something was wrong
Jennifer, just 32 years old, mother of three children, the youngest just months old, with no symptoms other than that “annoying” back pain, no history of smoking or being around second-hand smoke, had lung cancer.
Days later, she would meet with her oncologist and learn that her cancer is Stage 4. They immediately performed lung cancer biomarker testing, which came back positive for the ALK mutation. Jennifer is currently on an oral targeted therapy, which, after some initial unpleasant symptoms, she is tolerating well and living her life “pretty normally.”
“My whole life I have struggled with anxiety. I was so concerned about the past and the future that I was unable to live in the present. Once the initial shock wore off, I noticed that my anxiety has decreased significantly. And I am not only living in the present but that my life is now more fulfilling than ever before.”
The real impact of lung cancer research funding
It is thanks to research that patients like Jennifer are able to live long, happy lives, despite a lung cancer diagnosis. No matter the available treatment options, a lung cancer diagnosis is always devastating to both the patient and their families. At LCFA, it is our goal to continue to raise funds for research so that, in our lifetimes, lung cancer can become a chronic disease, not fatal, disease.