Dec 28, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Cancer Learning Center

Molli Graham was just 35 years old and in the middle of training for a marathon when she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2012. Today the marathon runner and mother of three is in remission. Read her story to learn about the targeted treatment that saved her life and the hope that keeps her going.

What went through your head when you heard you had cancer?

I was completely shocked when I found out I had lung cancer. I was in the best shape of my life. I was running five miles a day and training for marathons on the weekends, running up to 20 miles. I had never felt better. But the most important thing is that I am a mother of three beautiful children [ages six, four, and two at the time], and my first thought was that I can’t be taken from them—they need me. At that point I knew I had to give it all I had. I wanted the most aggressive plan there was. I had to beat this.

What kinds of treatments did you have?

In September 2012 I had the lower lobe of my left lung removed, along with 13 lymph nodes. The tumor itself was diagnosed at stage I, but one of the lymph nodes did have cancer cells in it, meaning my cancer was at stage II.

The surgery was the toughest part. It was rough and painful, but it was the best option. I healed and bounced back quickly, though, and was determined to still have a normal schedule and life. Cancer was not going to rob me of that.

After six weeks of healing from surgery, I started a four-round chemo plan with two different kinds of chemo. Then life continued and I went to Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) every few months for chest scans.

Unfortunately, in January 2015, a scan showed that the cancer was back. It was in the lymph nodes surrounding my left lung, so another surgery wasn’t an option. In fact, I didn’t have any options except chemotherapy again. However, there was a new drug out that had been very successful in treating lung cancer patients with a certain gene mutation. My doctors sent my original tumor for genetic testing to see if I had the mutation. If I didn’t, we would just be buying time with chemo.

When the gene testing came back showing I did have the mutation, I was thrilled and felt extremely blessed. I immediately started taking a targeted gene therapy pill and have been taking it since March 2015. It has done wonders for me so far. I feel great again and my scans have all been clean. I continue to go to HCI every 12 weeks for scans to make sure the cancer is still at bay. I won’t ever be cured but I am learning to live with it.

What has helped you get through cancer treatment?

I am extremely grateful for the advances being made in cancer research. Without this targeted gene therapy, I would not be alive today. There is hope with a cancer diagnosis. I keep faith that there are so many people dedicating their lives to research and finding ways to battle this disease. New methods and new developments are happening all the time. I have chosen to look at the good and not focus on the bad or scary part of my cancer. I am blessed and have a beautiful life and have became stronger than I ever thought possible.

Do you have any advice for others with cancer?

Sometimes we are dealt a tough hand, but I truly believe our attitude and our mindset can help heal us and make our situations so much better. I choose hope, I choose faith, I choose joy, and I choose to live every day to the fullest. My story isn’t over yet.

Cancer Learning Center

Huntsman Cancer Institute

patient stories lung cancer

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