Give a Breath Story
Tim Monds – Lung Cancer Patient/Survivor
In the spring of 2016, at the age of 57, I was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. Prior to that time, I had been having chest pain and pain in my left shoulder. I also had recurrent bronchial pneumonia for probably 20 years with various lung issues. The chest pain was so bad in April of 2016; I thought I was having a heart attack, so I went to the hospital. An X-ray was performed and a nodule was discovered. I was then sent for a CT scan and the results indicated it was likely lung cancer. I have never smoked a day in my life.
At that point, I went through the process of trying to see a specialist. By mid-May, I had a PET scan and met my amazing surgeon. I had an upper left lobectomy on June 29, 2016 and more testing carried out to see if it had spread to my lymph nodes. It had not. Because there was no lymph node infiltration, it was decided chemotherapy was not necessary at that point. I recovered well and we believed the cancer would not come back. So, I went back to work within six and a half weeks, and for two years I had a CT scan every three months. The results always came back good, no sign of cancer.
I retired at the end of May 2018 as a School Superintendent. Three weeks after I retired, I went to see my surgeon who reviewed my CT scan. The cancer had come back and there were now eleven new nodules in my lungs. Three months later I had another surgery, a wedge resection to see if it was cancer and to confirm if it had metastasized. My non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) had spread to the other lobes. It was now stage 4 NSCLC. To allow for recovery, I waited three months before I could see an oncologist and develop a management plan. Due to the small size of the nodules the decision was made to wait and see if they grew larger. I have been fortunate that the nodules have been growing slowly. Recently the nodules grew larger and additional nodules have been found. Further biomarker testing showed a high PDL1 expression. I also have the RET biomarker. I have been on immunotherapy with Keytruda (pembrolizumab) since March 18th/2021. Two years of immunotherapy is coming to a close…now for my immune system to continue to fight it!
In 2019, I met with my surgeon to discuss my plan to organize a walk/run with my family and raise awareness about lung cancer. Our family began Give A Breath in 2019 in Edmonton, a 5 km walk/run. In 2019, the first year, the event was in person and in 2020 it was held virtually because of the pandemic, www.giveabreath5k.com . We are now partnered with Lung Cancer Canada, moving Give a Breath officially now to a National Level in Canada for the fifth year of Give a Breath! To date, we have raised over $200,000 for early detection research, Thoracic equipment and supporting Airways of Hope for Lung Cancer patients in Canada.
I was part of the campaign “Stop Asking the Wrong question” … Did I smoke? I work with various groups including Lung Cancer Canada and the Lung Health Foundation to advocate and raise awareness about lung cancer. I am also a board member with Evict Radon National Research out of the University of Calgary; my wife Patty and I did a commercial for Alberta Cancer for the Cash and Cars fundraiser; and I volunteer with Alberta Cancer with a research project (PaCES) at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
Lung cancer patients (all cancer patients) needed to be high on the prioritization list for the COVID-19 vaccine, so I advocated for lung cancer patients to have the COVID-19 vaccine. I have been on Global Edmonton sharing Give a Breath and raising awareness for Lung Cancer. I have spoke at the Evening of Hope for Lung Cancer and been on a panel with the Lung Health Foundation; worked with pharmaceutical companies providing a Lung Cancer patient perspective. Most recently I have been the patient advisor for Alberta Health Services for the pilot project for early detection screening for lung cancer. I continue to become involved in numerous advocacy initiatives locally and nationally.
In the last few years prior to the pandemic, my wife and I traveled and spent time with my family and friends. The COVID-19 pandemic was difficult for our family. We have four children, two grandchildren, and we were fortunate to share memories using zoom. Exciting to be back with our family in person now!
I am blessed to have an amazing wife; Patty is so supportive. Also blessed to have four wonderful children and their families. I look forward to spending many years with my family, as a father and a papa with our grandkids, time with friends and lots of travel. Never losing hope, I believe is so important for all of us!
I plan to beat this cancer. April 2023, will be the seven year mark since my Lung Cancer was first discovered. However, it took a few months to confirm and then have a left upper lobectomy. Two years of stage 1 and five years of stage 4. I'm very optimistic! I truly believe we can make a difference and raise awareness and ensure lung cancer has a high success rate in time. Lung cancer takes more lives than Breast, Colon and Prostate cancers put together, yet receives significantly less funding. Now is the time to make a difference!
My advice for lung cancer patients is to never lose hope. Find support and connections with lung cancer patients. Ask questions and educate yourself. Don't look at the survival rates, just know that there's hope because of the new advances with immunotherapy and targeted therapies. Cherish each day! “If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you’d never think a negative thought again!” Enjoy each day, each moment, and stay positive. We got this!