Lung Cancer treatment at Stanford: Santwona Behera's story

Author: Stanford Health Care

The first symptoms of my lung cancer was a cough. It wouldn't go away. I went to my doctor, and the first thing she did was she told me it's due to allergies. I was being treated for allergies for a long time, and the cough wouldn't still go away.

And one good friend, she made me go and see a lung specialist. I went to him, he saw this mass in my chest. And after the bronchoscopy he told that he thinks that it's lung cancer and that was a shock for me! I thought only smokers get it. Most lung cancer is caused by smoking. However, there seems to be an increase in the rates of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

We used to think of it as many, many gene mutations that would lead to it. And now we're realizing that many of the times it really is a single gene mutation that's what we call the "driver." These mutations are more common in women than men and more common in people who are of Asian ethnicity. So for patients diagnosed with lung cancer, if we can figure out what this driver mutation is, it changes our treatment for them drastically I wanted to be treated in the best hospital and with the best doctor that was available for me so we went to Stanford. In the first meeting, Dr. Wakelee had us meet the surgeon and the radiologist and she gave us a plan. She made me feel that my health was the first priority.

Our focus initially was on chemotherapy, and on some surgery to try to remove everything. After the surgery she had radiation as well and unfortunately, her cancer then did return, and when it returned, it returned in the brain as well as in the lungs. We decided we will go to some other hospital to get the second opinion. I was told that I will live for six months to two years. I was crying. I was in tears.

Lung Cancer treatment at Stanford: Santwona Behera's story

My husband was in tears. I thought this was the end of the road for me. But when I came back, Dr. Wakelee she told, this is not true. I have so many things for you. If this drug doesn't work, I have other drugs and every month we are finding new drugs so don't get disheartened.

That gave me a lot of hope. She decided to start this wonder drug, Avastin, which I have been taking for nearly year and half now. Every three weeks, I go to Stanford I have the chemo and that is really working! We don't talk about her being cancer free, but we talk about her cancer being under control and she's been able to be very active, she's able to go back to travel to see her family in India, really be able to live her life. I know that she will try her best and I feel that I'm cared for. Anything that happens to me, physical or emotional, I can speak to her and she has a solution.

I don't think about what is going to come next, because Dr. Wakelee has given me a plan. Every time I talk to her I get hope.

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