Angeline Low: I am alive! Thanks to Research and Resilience

Angeline Low wasn’t your typical candidate for lung cancer. A busy corporate leader with a Ph.D., and an active member of various boards, Angeline embodied health and success. 

A non-smoker with a clean family history, a nagging cough that lingered for years seemed like a pesky winter bug or hayfever, or perhaps a travel cough. Treated with antibiotics and dismissed as minor annoyances, these coughs masked a hidden battle brewing inside Angeline.

In January 2019, a routine health check surprised even Angeline. “They told me I had the heart of a teenager!” and “above average lung functions” she laughs. But the surprise came with a twist – a recommendation for a CT scan. While on a family trip to Perth, the scan revealed blockages in her lungs. Advised to repeat the scan in 3-6 months, Angeline continued life as usual. However, May 2019 brought a more urgent turn. A follow-up scan led to a quick succession of a PET scan and a biopsy.

“Going into the biopsy, lung cancer wasn’t even a thought,” Angeline admits. “I felt invincible.” She remembers connecting with the doctor before the procedure, “He said, ‘Can I pray for you?’ That kindness stuck with me.” The answer came later, a single word that shattered her world – “Adenocarcinoma.”

Diagnosed with the EGFR Exon 19 mutation deletion, a common culprit in advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), Angeline’s life took a sharp turn. Treatment began by mid-June, and brought on a grueling gauntlet of side effects. One side effect, a severe skin rash on the face, scalp, and neck that still brings back  traumatic memories. “It felt like I was burning from the inside,” she describes, it was “hot, painful, itchy.” Even today, the “trauma comes back” anytime I feel an itch, says Angeline. 

But Angeline is a fighter. Throughout the ordeal, she found strength in her family, and her husband as her carer. Her medical team of specialist doctors and oncologists were described as ‘very kind’ and gave her the support she required.  

Angeline found exceptional support at the Sydney Adventist Hospital lung cancer support group, which became a haven to share experiences and find strength in numbers. Angeline also turned to lung cancer blogs, connecting with an international community battling the same enemy.

The fight was long, but Angeline emerged victorious. After 4 years on the TKI drug therapy, Angeline agreed to have a robotics lobectomy. She is now into her 5th year of survivorship and has a bigger mission in spreading awareness and lung cancer research.

This year, she has been selected as one of only 15 lung cancer research advocates worldwide, Angeline will begin her study to learn about all variations of lung cancer and become a knowledgeable patient and  research advocate for the cause.

“Empowerment through education,” that’s Angeline’s mantra now. She wants to teach others to advocate for their own health, stressing, “The earlier you face it, the better off you are.”

Her advice is simple yet powerful:

"Cancer is the worst secret you can keep. There is no shame, it's not your fault. Don't go at it alone.” Angeline stresses the benefits of a support system that will allow you to share like she had through her support group, blogs, and her family and friends.

“Knowledge is power.” Educate yourself, ask questions, and even ask Dr. Google so you can be better prepared to ask the “right” questions to your doctors. Empower yourself. Empower your loved ones." While googling for information can be frowned upon, in this case, Angeline supports it.

Angeline is organising a big fundraiser for early next year to give back to the community who have helped her get to where she is today. “I am alive thanks to my medical team, lung cancer researchers, clinical trials and new treatments., I have the contacts and I can widen the network for TOGA. I want to help inspire other people to support TOGA and support the lung cancer researchers as well”. 

Angeline’s story is a testament to the power of research, resilience, and the unwavering support that can help patients fight back. As Angeline inspires others, we at TOGA believe in the power of research to save lives.

Donate to TOGA today and help us fuel the fight against lung cancer. Together, let’s create a future where more stories like Angeline’s end with hope and a second chance.

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