In the summer of 2017, Michele Running’s daughter was working as an au pair in Barcelona. Always up for an adventure, Michele hopped over for a visit. While she was there, she developed a cough and was unusually winded during a mountain hike. At the time, she thought little of it.
From a Cough to Lung Cancer: The Diagnosis
About a month later, while out for a birthday dinner with her brother, he made a comment about how much he was feeling his age. Michele, at 48, and with little interest in “feeling her age” took that as her clue to dive head on into a workout routine. She started to exercise daily. Soon, the cough she’d thought little of had become very disruptive. Her husband encouraged her to see a doctor. At the time, Michele was so healthy that she did not even have a doctor.
It would be a month before she would be seen. The doctor suspected the cough was caused by either post nasal drip or perhaps acid reflux. Out of an abundance of caution, and highly fortunate for Michele, she also ordered a chest x-ray. Michele left the office and went shopping, having no idea when her cell phone rang that her life was about to change:
“There is a mass in one of your lungs. You need to see a pulmonologist right away.”
The pulmonologist told her he wasn’t quite sure what they were dealing with, but assured her that, if it was lung cancer they would “go in, take it out and be done with it.”
A bronchoscopy would say otherwise. Michele had Stage 3A Non Small Cell Lung Cancer, ALK positive (ALK+) and, at that time, not a candidate for surgery.
“We had tickets that night to see ‘School of Rock’ with the kids. We had a huge cry-fest and debated back and forth if we should go. We went and had a great night.”
A Path Forward: Beginning Lung Cancer Treatment
The very next day, Michele met with the oncologist who told her that her particular strain of lung cancer was curable. He presented her case to the tumor board and, a few days later, she began chemotherapy treatment.
Following a six week break to regain some strength, Michele underwent a lobectomy followed by 25 rounds of radiation. Her most recent scans were good except for a tiny spot on her left lung that is too small for a PET scan and in a spot too difficult to access for a biopsy. She will return in three months for further evaluation.
Exercising Her Way Through Lung Cancer Treatment
Her exercise regimen served her well: Michele continued to exercise throughout her treatment.
After her last scan, Michele headed to the gym to work out. While there, she bumped into an acquaintance whom she hadn’t seen in some time. With no fanfare, she removed a bracelet from her wrist that was emblazoned with St. Benedict (purported to chase away the devil) and handed it to Michele. It was such a small, but meaningful gesture to Michele who, with grace and a quick sense of humor, continues to chase the devil that is lung cancer every day.
“Cancer changed my life for the better. I was so busy with three biological children, two foster kids and running my own business. I’ve learned to slow down. I have a sign in my office that reads: Enjoy The Little Things and, boy, do I!”