My name is Gina Dietzer. I am a wife. A mom. A nurse. And a lung cancer survivor of 4 years.
In 2015, I was diagnosed in the emergency room with lung cancer without ANY lung cancer symptoms. I went to the ER due to lower back pain which I believed were kidney stones. A CT scan showed kidney stones… as well as a mass in my left lung and lesions all along my spine. I was shocked and did not know what to think. I was 51 years old and a non-smoker my whole life. Then fear hit me as I realized my father died of cancer when he was 51 due to a brain tumor.
My community oncologist was not supportive of clinical trials, only wanted to talk to my husband, and gave me 6 months to live. He chose to treat me with three chemotherapy drugs. These 3 chemos were harsh on my body and having a delicate stomach made it almost unbearable. I lost 30 pounds in 5 weeks.
I was sick. And with treatment, I FELT sick. I fell into a depression, lost all my hair within weeks, couldn’t do my job as a nurse and felt sad that I would miss main life events like HS graduation or marriage of my daughters who were 16 and 19.
When I felt well enough to go back to church, my Pastor – who lost his wife after a 6 year battle – recommended that I get a second opinion and that I needed to become my own advocate! Afterall, I was a nurse and that is what I tell my patients all the time! Advocate for yourself!I began my research that day and discovered a National Cancer Institute right in my city! Not only that but there were 5 oncologists that specialized in lung cancer alone.
My new lung cancer oncologist shared with me that my original biopsy results, meant I was eligible for targeted therapy. In addition, and so importantly, I did NOT need to continue having chemo !!! Life completely changed for me! I felt better and my disease was not progressing. I found Lungevity, a great advocacy organization, with many resources and signed up for its Lifeline Program. I also became a mentor for fellow patients. I attended a Lungevity Conference and met so many lung cancer survivors, including my Lifeline Program friend. Unfortunately she ran out of treatments and has since passed away.
Because of the effective medications for my cancer, I have been able to see my oldest daughter get married and my youngest daughter graduate from High School. In addition I recently became a Grandma! (Thanks to my oldest daughter and her husband) And my youngest daughter has chosen pre med as her major in college!