Immunotherapy Patient Stories

Ron Simmons

Area of Research: Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Ron’s Story

My name is Ron Simmons and my story actually began in December 2013 when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I had no symptoms but the cancer was discovered during my first post-50 colonoscopy. I was diagnosed at stage 1 and in January 2014, I had 20’” of colon and 1” of my rectum along with lymph nodes removed. After testing it was determined that all the cancer was removed and there was no need for any further treatments.

For the next few years, every three months, my blood tests came back normal. Then in January 2017, my CEA blood tests came back elevated for the first time. My colon specialist referred me to a pulmonologist for further testing. After CT and MRI scans it was determined that there was “something” in my left lung. I had a bronchoscopy biopsy as well as a CT guided biopsy and PET scan. Each came back as “not cancerous.” After six months of testing and procedures, the decision was made that it must be a partially collapsed lung and that we would wait six months and see where we were at that point.

On Christmas Day 2017, I began to feel bad, but thought it was a cold or flu maybe. A couple of days later, I went to the doctor and they told me I had pneumonia. Of course, they did a chest x-ray, and when the radiologist gave me the CD, she had a sullen look on her face. I knew what she saw and told her the pulmonologist said it was a collapsed lung. Her reply was quick. She said that after many decades reading x-rays that this was not a collapsed lung and that I needed to see a specialist as soon as possible.

I explained to them that after my previous experience, I wanted to see another doctor. A senior thoracic surgeon took my case and after reviewing all my previous tests, he determined that I needed to have surgery—a lower left lobe wedge—to determine what was growing in my lung. He was only able to remove a little of the lobe as the cancer had spread outside the lung, but at this point had not metastasized to any other organs.

After consultation with a couple of family members and friends, I chose an oncologist that had a lot of experience in dealing with what I have: stage 3 lung cancer. After our first meeting, I had new, updated CT, MRI of the brain, and PET scans. With these new results, we established a plan of attack on this cancer. I would begin radiation for 36 treatments and chemotherapy for two 8-day sessions using Cisplatin and Etoposide. During these daily treatments I was surrounded by family and friends helping with daily tasks, but most importantly, daily support of me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

At the conclusion of my radiation and chemo treatments, I began a new immunotherapy, Imfinzi, in an effort to teach my body’s own immune system to fight any leftover or newly developed cancer cells. I completed the cycle in August 2019. The only side effect I have experienced is a day or two of tiredness after the treatment. The treatments have done exactly what they were prescribed to do as my mass has “significantly decreased with no new cancer cells.” 

At the beginning of my diagnosis of stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), I relied on my faith in God to help me in every aspect of this journey, including telling my parents and adult children that their son and father had cancer, again. I leaned on and shared with many other patients, caregivers, family, and friends a verse: Daniel 3:18. You have to read the whole chapter to understand; however, the point is that no matter what life comes at you with, you have to have a never give up, never lose faith, never quit mentality! When your situation is worse than ever before and there appears to be no possible solution, no matter what, God is in control and will never fail you.

With this mentality, I face every day with a fight for life, a life full of adventure and full of memories. No matter what, never give up!

Questions and Answers

CRI: How and when did you first learn you had cancer?
Ron: My first cancer, colorectal cancer, was discovered in November 2013 after routine colonoscopy.

My second cancer, lung cancer, was discovered on February 23, 2018, after partial wedge resection was unsuccessful.

CRI: How did you learn about immunotherapy and why did you decide to do it?
RonI learned about the opportunity of immunotherapy from my oncologist.

CRI: What was treatment like? Did you have any side effects?
RonThe only side effect was occasional tiredness.

CRI: How did immunotherapy compare to other treatments you may have received, if any?
RonLike the others, no serious side effects with any treatments.

CRI: Are there things that surprise you about the cancer experience?
RonAs with most patients, the initial diagnosis makes you ask “Why?”

I have heard a lot of bad stories from others going through various cancer journeys, but my journey was not bad at all in relationship to side effects. Like all cancer patients, the journey is not inexpensive and will put a strain on family finances and family time.

CRI: What would you want another patient to know about immunotherapy or about participating in a clinical trial?
RonIn my case, and every patient is different, the immunotherapy was effective to where I am now: No Evidence of Disease.

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