ALK-positive lung cancer wasn’t at all in Tim’s plans. For a year prior to his diagnosis, Tim Smith – firefighter, husband, dad to two young boys – had been plagued with fatigue. Used to functioning on very little sleep, he noticed that even a full night’s rest did not assuage his exhaustion.
The Unexplainable Symptoms
When he began to suffer from constant ear pain and chronic low-grade fever he scheduled an appointment with his primary care physician. No obvious culprit emerged to explain his symptoms. He went on to see an ENT, a neurologist, a specialist in TMJ, and a cardiologist. Despite repeated and extensive blood work, no one could determine what was causing Tim’s symptoms.
Just after Halloween, intense shoulder pain led Tim to a pain clinic. He was told it was likely a sprain, given pain medication and sent on his way. The following day was the pain excruciating. The right side of his neck was visibly swollen and tender to the touch. At the suggestion of a fellow firefighter, he went to the ER. He was diagnosed with a blood clot.
“Because I was young and had no history of blood clots, they suspected it might be cancer.”
An Unexpected Diagnosis: Lung Cancer
A chest x-ray revealed a spot. When biopsied, it confirmed that Tim, age 34, had either stage 3B or stage 4 lung cancer. A thoracic surgeon soon confirmed that it was Stage 4 and inoperable.
Biomarker Testing: ALK-Positive Lung Cancer
“I told the doctor I wanted to start chemo right away. Fortunately, he persuaded me to settle down. He encouraged me to agree to send the biopsy sample out for biomarker testing. It took a few weeks for it to come back, but when it did, we knew I was ALK+. I was given targeted therapy. Now, a year later, all the cancer is gone, except for the primary tumor which is nothing more than a smudge that my doctor told me can barely see on a scan.”
At the time of his diagnosis of ALK-Positive Lung Cancer, Tim made a decision to take two important trips with his wife and children: one to Disneyworld and one to Israel. He fulfilled both those dreams and celebrated his one-year cancerversary in Israel.
From Fighting Fires to Fighting for Lung Cancer Research
Never having been an advocate, Tim is now the outreach management team for the ALK+ online community. He is eternally grateful that advances in lung cancer research allowed his disease to be better understood. Through these breakthroughs, he was able to receive therapy created for exactly his lung cancer.