Take Charge

Dawn Shares Her Story

November 18, 2016

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At the age of 36, Dawn was in the best shape of her life. Not only was she an avid runner, but she was a triathlete, so when she began experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath she didn’t know what was wrong. Eventually, her symptoms began affecting her time and pace. She went to a physical therapist who recommended an orthopedic surgeon who, in turn, advised Dawn to get a CT scan. That CT scan showed cancer on Dawn’s liver. The next day, doctors diagnosed her with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized to her liver.

Dawn was shocked by the diagnosis because she doesn’t smoke and she’s an athlete. Plus, she had just moved to Florida six months earlier, so she didn’t have friends or family nearby. Surgery wasn’t an option, but she underwent several rounds of traditional chemotherapy and qualified for a clinical trial for a new chemotherapy pill.

Despite the diagnosis, Dawn felt strong and was confident she’d beat cancer, but the news kept getting worse. The clinical trial chemotherapy pill stopped working and the cancer spread to her spine and her brain requiring her to have radiation.

It’s been two years since the diagnosis and Dawn is currently on a different chemotherapy pill that keeps the cancer at bay. She comes to Moffitt Cancer Center every three months for scans, blood work and a check-up.

Dawn developed lung cancer due to a gene she carries. She encourages everyone to listen to their bodies and see a doctor when they feel something is wrong. There is no blood test to detect lung cancer and her symptoms could have been a number of different ailments.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and Dawn wants to spread the word that anyone can get lung cancer. Doctors say she’ll always have the cancer. If she stops treatment, it’ll come right back.