I call myself the “CrossFit diva.” I’m a certified trainer, and I love helping people get strong and fit. I was in the process of opening my own CrossFit box in the fall of 2014 when I started having trouble breathing: shortness of breath, coughing, feeling weak. Doctors tried to find the problem. A cold? A respiratory infection? Pneumonia? 

Courses of antibiotics didn’t help. Neither did steroids. After ending up in the ER, my doctor ordered a CT scan and bronchoscopy of my lungs. I was shocked two days later when I found out I had stage III-B lung cancer. Devastated and in disbelief, I couldn’t bring myself to research the disease or possible treatments. 

I wish now that I had known about biomarkers and new lung cancer treatments called targeted therapies. A biopsy of the tumor is tested for genomic markers that can make it more susceptible to smart drugs that only attack the cancer cells.  

My cancer was very aggressive and I was told that chemotherapy and radiation needed to begin immediately. The treatments were very difficult and I lost part of my hearing due to side effects from chemotherapy. 

How I learned I didn't need chemotherapy

I was undergoing the last treatments of chemo and radiation when the results of my biomarker test finally came back: I was positive for the ALK mutation, which rarely responds to chemotherapy and radiation, but it does respond well to several targeted therapy drugs. Thanks to advances in ALK-targeting drugs, I am currently considered “NED” or No Evidence of Disease. 

I wish now that I had known about biomarkers and new lung cancer treatments called targeted therapies.

Today, I’m a tireless advocate for others through my work with Lung Cancer Foundation of America. I encourage anyone who’s been diagnosed with lung cancer to immediately have biomarker testing and assemble an oncology team. You don’t want to have chemo and radiation if it isn’t necessary.

I’ve also fulfilled my dream of opening my own CrossFit box: Region Rat CrossFit near Chicago. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the loving support of my family and my Christian faith that have sustained me throughout the process.