Real Progress in Lung Cancer: A Stage IV Lung Cancer Survivor Speaks

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Topics include: Patient Stories

Can stage IV lung cancer patients make plans for their future?  Patient Power founder Andrew Schorr interviews stage IV lung cancer survivor and patient advocate Melinda Dunn, a 4-year survivor.  When asked if lung cancer patients have a reason to hope, Melinda says, “Know how lucky you are that there’s such great science going on that you can take advantage of.”

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.       

Andrew Schorr:

Hello and welcome to Patient Power.  I'm Andrew Schorr. 

The story of stage IV lung cancer, it's a terrifying story for many people when they're told that they have that diagnosis. But hopefully for you, if that's your situation, it is a more positive story, and someone who has had a more positive story is Melinda Dunn.  Thank you for joining us. 

Melinda Dunn:

Oh, you're welcome. 

Andrew Schorr:

So, Melinda, 2012?  

Melinda Dunn:

January of 2012. 

Andrew Schorr:

What were your symptoms? 

Melinda Dunn:

I was out of breath.  I actually thought I had a heart condition, and I went to a heart doctor. And they did a CT scan, and that's when we found I had lung cancer. 

Andrew Schorr:

So you eventually came to MD Anderson. 

Melinda Dunn:

Within a week. 

Andrew Schorr:

All right.  And, of course, a major center.  And started what treatment? 

Melinda Dunn:

It's called the platinum treatment, and it was—I started off with three chemotherapies, then worked down to two, and then I was on maintenance for a little over two years. 

Andrew Schorr:

And how was that?  It's not easy.  

Melinda Dunn:

The three was harder.  I got tired. But once you get into a routine it was—I came every three weeks, and that's just what you did.  At the end of three years, I got CT scans every nine weeks, and they found a new spot on my lung. And that's when it was like, okay, it's worked as long as it could.  And we—I went to Dr. Byers, and she was very sure that I had some kind of genetic component, and—because I did so well on the regular treatment.  So when they did a biopsy of the new place, they found that I had BRAF gene mutation.  

Andrew Schorr:

Clinical trial.  

Melinda Dunn:

Correct.  

Andrew Schorr:

So what happened?  

Melinda Dunn:

Well, we had a slight improvement.  It was difficult on the—we took eight pills a day—and I always use the term "we," because it's my husband and I going through it.  I took eight pills a day, and I got a huge fever, so they took me off.  And then I did six pills a day, and then I couldn't move.  I ached. 

So they moved me down to four pills a day, and there was just a slight improvement.  And for—I have never been clear, no matter what treatment I took, so I was used to going, well, it's better but not gone away.  And then we took the pills, we took the pills, and then I noticed some changes in September of 2015 where all of a sudden I had all this massive growth of hair and all this kind of stuff. And then three months later, the doctor takes me in and he says, “Melinda, the lung's clear.”

Andrew Schorr:

Hallelujah. 

Melinda Dunn:

Right.  We were just—we were so amazed, it was just shocking, and it was a great Christmas present. 

Andrew Schorr:

How are you feeling now?  

Melinda Dunn:

Fine.  Fine.  We're still clear.  Still taking the medicine.  We still plan out to the future and trips and things like that.  

Andrew Schorr:

So fine is a great word… 

Melinda Dunn:

It is. 

Andrew Schorr:

…for somebody who has had stage IV lung cancer. 

Melinda Dunn:

Yes.  Yes.  I know how lucky I am. 

Andrew Schorr:

But what would you say to patients today about not giving up hope?  

Melinda Dunn:

You can.  I also do volunteer where patients call in and ask for somebody to talk to, and I said, you know, there are just amazing things going on. And you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and go and know how lucky you are that there's such great science going on that you can take advantage of.  

Andrew Schorr:

Wow.  It is great to meet somebody where that has been happening… 

Melinda Dunn:

Yes. 

Andrew Schorr:

…for you, and I wish you many, many trips,

Melinda Dunn:

Yes.  Yeah.  

Andrew Schorr:

…and a lot of great time with your husband, Paul.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you. 


Page last updated on April 13, 2016