Cancer Update: Promising News, Determination & Hope. My New Goal: “Substantially” More Years

Photo courtesy of Peg’s Foundation, from The Morgan Impact Awards, Pete and Patti, 2021

(4-3-24) Since learning in February that I have Stage 4 lung cancer, I have undergone a series of scans and tests. I can now share some hopeful news.

My cancer is being treated with targeted therapy, which only can be done in a small percentage of cases. I am taking a medication (8 pills per day) specifically designed to target molecules that the cancer needs to spread and survive. While my cancer can’t be cured, it can be treated and targeted therapy is much less caustic on my body than chemotherapy.

Individuals with my cancer diagnosis who receive targeted therapy routinely survive three to four years, with some surviving substantially longer.  Clearly, this is much better than the six months sentence that was suggested in the ER.

I am 72 years old and hope to be among those who survive “substantially longer,” but this time line has certainly changed how I now look at my life.

Knowing that I am on a shorter schedule than I had hoped (both my parents lived into their 90s) and recognizing what probably will kill me has caused me to prioritize what is important to me. No surprises here – it is spending time with Patti, my family, and friends. Gone is the fluff.

In a supportive note, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who has Parkinson’s Disease, wrote: “You should focus on living the good life. If you are saving your best wine or beer for a special occasion, this is a time to enjoy it.”

I will continue periodically posting items about mental illnesses and the need for reform. Although I do not wish to dwell on my cancer treatment, I may post occasional updates of my condition because so, so many of you have offered me support. I deeply appreciate all of the kindness, prayers and encouraging words that you have offered me during this journey.

It has taken me time to accept my diagnosis. Not long ago, I was hiking and cancer never entered my thoughts. But I have passed through the denial and anger stages, with much help from Patti.

Now, I am filled with hope and determination. Those of us who either have a mental illness or love someone who does know how important both are to recovery. We also know never to under-estimate the human spirit. There was a time when I feared my son, Kevin, would be homeless, in jail or dead because of his serious mental illness. Today, he is doing fabulously. He earned a Masters Degree in Social Work, continues in his career as a mental health care specialist and is thriving.  His courage and resilience inspires me. I will go hiking again and my goal is to stay healthy enough to attend my granddaughter, Audrey’s high school graduation!

It may be cliche, but it is true. Rejoice in each sunrise. Savor each sunset. Hold tight those you love.

And hope.
Walking with Audrey
About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.