LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Lung cancer is typically linked to smokers, but it is also common in those that have never picked up a cigarette. 7News talks to one Lake Charles woman in the fight for her life against the number one cancer killer.
Every morning starts with a lifeline for 43-year-old Cindy Hornsby: An oral chemotherapy drug called Xalcori.
"I have been taking that since October and it appears to be working," she said.
Hornsby started feeling extreme shortness of breath in 2011. A specialist found the first tumor outside her left lung.
"All I could think was death," she said, "imminent death. I think I have my whole life ahead of me and you hear so many things about lung cancer."
Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States, claiming 160,000 lives every year. People like Cindy Hornsby live scan to scan, praying that the medication they are on will keep them alive.
"We don't know how long mine will work," she said, "but it is working now and that's why we need these research dollars so that we can find new medicines for people like me."
Jean Kamla is a nurse that knows all too well the immediate need for new medications and lung cancer research. Her brother, Ben Mount, died from the disease - but Kamla keeps fighting.
"We have to work to give Cindy and everyone else affected the hope. We have to provide the research dollars for this medication," said Kamla.
Hornsby has gone through aggressive chemo to shrink tumors, pinpoint radiation and was in remission until last fall. Then, bad news came again.
"It had metastasized to five places, my kidney, my heart muscles, ovaries, my other lung," she said.
Young, non-smoking lung cancer patients like Hornsby are more likely to have an ALK gene mutation that triggers cancerous tumor growth. Xalcori, known as Crizotinib in clinical testing, turns that off, causing tumors to shrink.
"Almost all of the spots are cleared," said Hornsby, "right now the only spots I'm dealing with are in my ribs and my ovaries."
This medication has proven effective for about three to four years. The next line of drugs is in clinical trials and Hornsby is hoping it can also give her more time to live.
"My hope is to live. I still have a high school student and I want to see him graduate. I just found out I was going to be a grandmother, so I want to be able to see my family," she said.
The Free to Breathe lung cancer walk coming up Saturday, March 16 in Lake Charles is a big way to raise money for research and medication. Last, year, the first $100,000 went to the Louisiana Hope Research Grant, studying the genetic difference between smoking and non-smoking lung cancer.
The Free to Breathe 5K and one mile walk/run will begin at 8 a.m. at the Lake Charles Civic Center. Click here for registration information.
If you want to help raise some money while enjoying good food, mark down these dates:
*Thursday, March 7: Chick-Fil-A Night - 10 percent of proceeds from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for F2B.
*Monday, March 18: Que Pasa Night - 5 percent of proceeds from 5 p.m. until closing for F2B.