Patty Watkins loves being outdoors. She’s an avid gardener. She walk miles a day on the streets and trails of her neighborhood with a group of friends. It was strange then, for the healthy 57-year-old woman to notice that she was wheezing at night. A year later, she was diagnosed with blood clots in her calf. Scans to check for other blood clots revealed a shocking diagnosis. Stage 4 lung cancer that had spread to the lining around her heart.
“I knew at that time that I was going to make it to my son’s graduation from Auburn University in May.”
Patty dove into treatment options, first undergoing chemotherapy and targeted radiation on tumors that had spread to her brain. Her doctor tested Patty’s tumors for genomic mutations called biomarkers. Several of these biomarkers are susceptible to new drugs called targeted therapies. Targeted therapy drugs attack just the cancer cells. In addition, patients frequently have fewer side effects and work better than chemotherapy and radiation.
In Patty’s case, her lung cancer tested positive for the ROS-1 mutation. However, the drugs for the mutation were so new that they were still in the clinical trial stage. She had to seek out a cancer team that would support the use of the unapproved drug targeting the ROS-1 mutation. Fortunately, Patty found a willing oncologist in Boston. This oncologist sponsored her access to the new drug by writing a clinical trial just for her. Thanks to research and new treatments, Patty is currently “NED,” or No Evidence of Disease.
Patty’s Advocacy Work Continues
Patty spends much of her time currently helping others who are facing lung cancer. She is a member of the ROS-1ders (pronounced “Ross-wonders!”). This group advocates for increased funding for lung cancer research and new therapies available to ROS-1 positive lung cancer patients.
Today, Patty spends her time as an advocate for lung cancer patients and their families. She joined the National Lung Cancer Round Table. Then she started the first lung cancer support group at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory in Atlanta.
Patty was a participant in LCFA’s #LivingWithLungCancer Social Media Takeover on August 1, 2021 as part of World Lung Cancer Day. She authored a helpful article, Gifts for Cancer Patients, featured on LCFA’s website.
Read Patty’s story: A Stage 4 Lung Cancer Diagnosis: Patty’s Story