Trusting Her Gut

Emergency room case manager and nurse Marla Celeri had been struggling with a runny nose, persistent cough, rapid breathing and a hoarse voice for six months. Unable to speak above a whisper, Marla checked in to her own emergency room, this time as a patient. A chest x-ray yielded clear results. But Marla asked for a CT scan, confident that the cause of her symptoms had gone undetected. Because the scan was deemed medically unnecessary, her insurance company refused to pay.

Her physician blamed allergies and prescribed a nebulizer to ease symptoms, but Marla thought different. Trusting her gut, Marla made an appointment with an ENT, a decision that would save her life.

Facing Stage 4 Adenocarcinoma Lung Cancer

The CT scan proved Marla’s instincts were right: cancer beneath her chest plate was so rampant that it had wrapped around her breathing tube. Marla was diagnosed with stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer and was told she had only a few months to live. After reviewing her results, her emergency room coworkers’ only response was “we’re so sorry.”

By this time, Marla was constantly coughing and could neither speak or move on her own. She endured 30 radiation treatments in ten days. And she began nine months of immunotherapy, steroids, and chemotherapy. The protocol was intense and excruciating, but it worked.

Finding Her Voice

At her last PET scan, nearly two years after her diagnosis, Marla heard those three letters every cancer patient hopes for: NED (No Evidence of Disease).

Just one week later, Marla became a grandmother for the first time. She and her granddaughter, Lyanna, were “born at the same time” and both are experiencing many of the joys of new life.

“I am very, very, very lucky. You just have to keep going, even if you just walk to the end of the driveway and back.”

Life after stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer meant way more than walking to the end of the driveway! In fact, she’s gone skiing, enjoyed on a Disney Cruise, parasailed, tubed, zip-lined, camped with her family, hiked throughout Montreal, and bikes or swims every day. She reads, watches old movies, goes to visit her granddaughter “whenever she feels like it,” tutors nursing students, and fosters cats and dogs.

With her newfound voice – the same one she nearly lost – Marla has become an outspoken supporter of the importance of lung cancer research.

“I know that my cancer will catch up with me, but in the meantime, I got my voice back and I plan to use it.”

Read other inspiring survivor stories like Marla’s and learn more about how you can support LCFA’s efforts to support those living with lung cancer.