Thanks to COVID-19, we have all learned to panic at even the slightest tickle in our throats. But, before the pandemic broke out, Lisa Weir didn’t think much of her persistent cough. After being reassured by her family doctor it was pneumonia and treatable with medication, Lisa allowed herself to get caught up in her hectic life.
It wasn’t until the 59-year-old grandmother realized she could no longer laugh without coughing – something she loves to do and do a lot of – that Lisa became worried. An after-hours clinician looked at Lisa’s lungs and suggested her previous diagnosis of pneumonia did not paint the full picture of her condition. However, it took tingling in her arm and a visit to London Health Science Centre’s (LHSC’s) Emergency Room to get to the bottom of Lisa’s symptoms.
A stress test revealed Lisa’s heart was as healthy as could be, but the doctor on-call warned her he believed she had a tumour in her lungs. Two days later, Lisa’s CT scan led to a biopsy and an appointment with LHSC medical oncologist, Dr. Phillip Blanchette.
“Until the moment they explained I had stage four lung cancer, I didn’t really grasp the full weight of my circumstances,” Lisa explains. “When I heard those fateful words, it took the wind right out of my sails.”
Google searches did their worst, confirming in no uncertain terms, Lisa was in trouble. Haunted by the thought of how no one survives stage four lung cancer, the new grandmother fell into depression.
“My grandsons had just been born,” she says. “They were two weeks old, before I could even hold them because of COVID restrictions. I was completely lost until the day I started chemo. I remember being so excited to finally be moving in the right direction.”
From June 2020 to April 2021, Lisa received two types of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. At first, she responded positively, but over time the treatment stopped working. Dr. Blanchette immediately took action. He connected with clinicians at The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, in Toronto, and had Lisa enrolled in a medical trial, which helped shrink the tumours in her lungs by 76 per cent.
Now that she has regained much of her quality of life, Lisa has turned her attention toward increasing support for patients coping with lung cancer. Her wood-working husband created 300 larger-than-life white ribbons for family, friends and fellow patients to bring attention to a disease one in 16 people will be diagnosed with. Grateful for the wraparound care she received, Lisa also presented a white ribbon to Dr. Blanchette and his team.
“LHSC was truly exceptional,” Lisa shares. “From the moment I walked in the door, they led me the whole way. The entire system is incredibly well coordinated, so your care team is always right there with you. On your best and worst day, you will never have to walk this path alone.”
Empowered by tools from London Health Sciences Foundation’s (LHSF) Do-It-Yourself fundraising program, Lisa created a personalized website where she shares her story in support of patients who are currently walking the difficult path of a cancer diagnosis. Since launching “Lisa’s Lungs” using the customizable resources at LHSF, she has raised nearly $8,000.
She says her mission is two-fold: “I want to fund world-leading research and clinical trials right here in London. We have the talent and the brain power, but we need the financial resources. My other priority is to encourage patients to advocate for themselves. The sooner you get access to the care you need, the better your outcomes will be.”
Click here to learn how LHSF can help you achieve your DIY fundraising goals in a way most meaningful to you.
Have a memorable health care story at LHSC? We want to hear from you! If you have a wellness journey you’d like to share, please contact LHSF’s marketing team at LHSFComm@lhsc.on.ca.