My name is Shirley Billingsley. I am 60 years old. In January 2006, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Four masses were found; one in my lung the size of a tennis ball, a small one on a lymph node, one in my ovary the size of a softball and one on my adrenal gland.
In March 2006, I underwent 2 major surgeries, one for a hysterectomy and one to remove the one adrenal gland. These surgeries removed all the cancer in my abdominal area. My case is very unusual because normally with stage IV cancer, surgery is not an option. In April 2006, I started very aggressive chemotherapy, four treatments every three weeks, which ended in July 2006. On the third treatment, I started radiation, everyday for seven weeks (35 treatments) which ended in August 2006. I had another PET scan in August 2006. This scan revealed there was very minimal activity, which the doctors believed was due to inflammation from the radiation. In November 2006, I had another PET scan and a precautionary MRI Scan on my head (due to some dizziness) which revealed there were no longer any active tumors. Another PET scan was done in February 2007 and again it was clear.
In May 2007, another precautionary MRI was ordered. Unfortunately this one was not as good as the last one. It revealed two tumors in my brain, one small tumor above my left ear and another larger one in my right frontal lobe. On May 30, 2007, radiosurgery was performed on my head. That consisted of pin pointing the tumors with radiation for one and a half hours. The radiosurgery completely dissolved the one above my ear and killed the cells in the other one. On May 31, 2007, surgery was performed to resect the tumor in my right frontal lobe. As of May 31, 2012, I am a Five-Year Lung Cancer Survivor.
My journey with cancer is not a textbook case. When I was first diagnosed, I had a 7% chance to live the first year. I am in the top 2% in the nation that have responded effectively to the aggressive treatment that I received. This success was possible through the grace of God, a positive attitude, support from family and friends and the most wonderful group of doctors in the world. I am truly a miracle.
We are extremely saddened to say that on August 15, 2015, Shirley lost her battle. Shirley impacted many with her advocacy efforts and dedication to the mission of Lung Cancer Initiative.