My name is Lisa Briggs and I’m 34 years old, wife to my amazing husband Kirk, and mother of two beautiful children, four year old Jasmine and 18 month old Alastair.
On the 28th November 2014, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer. Having always led an active lifestyle, never smoked a cigarette in my life and being an Allied Health Care Professional (Osteopath and Exercise Physiologist) and business owner, the diagnosis definitely came as a massive shock. In fact, the day I was diagnosed was the day the disease nearly claimed my life.
It all started when I was pregnant with my 2nd child Alastair and had difficulties breathing. Initially, I was prescribed asthma inhalers, but after minimal relief, at 38 weeks gestation I was sent for an x-ray. The results were all clear, and I was told there was a simple solution; once I have the baby my symptoms would disappear.
The initial period after giving birth was tough as I was trying to juggle an unsettled newborn, a toddler craving attention as well as continuing to manage and direct my sports medicine business. As a result, I often blamed my fatigue and difficulty breathing on the hectic lifestyle. However as my symptoms continued, four months later, things quickly became a lot more complex than that ‘simple solution’ provided by my doctor and it turned rather ugly.
I coughed up blood for three days continuously and was misdiagnosed in hospital for having bronchitis. A CT scan (promptly requested by my GP) followed by a bronchoscopy, finally confirmed the real reason for my symptoms - a tumour in my right lung which was wrapped around and strangling my pulmonary artery (the main artery that exits your heart and supplies your lungs). By this stage, I needed emergency surgery (embolisation) to stop the bleeding in my lungs, but I was told there was no guarantee this would be successful. Thankfully it was and before I knew it I was in recovery surrounded by my family and friends. Whilst I was lucky to have survived, further tests and examination in hospital soon after revealed it had already spread to eight different locations in my body, and it was then I was told there was no cure.
Initially I felt numb, then the panic set in. I was scared for Kirk and my kids. It was devastating news! My son was still a baby at only four months old and relied so heavily on his mum. He was forced to stop breastfeeding immediately once I was admitted into hospital and my contact with him was minimal for a two week period; his security blanket was completely ripped away. Jasmine who was three years old was at such an important age of development both mentally and emotionally. I was the one she looked up to, yet I was physically vulnerable. All I kept thinking was that they were going to grow up without a mum and that I would miss all the important milestones most mothers want to see. I asked myself questions like “How will they cope?” “How is Kirk supposed to be a mum and a dad to these kids and work full time?” “Will they even remember who I am?” Naturally, I wanted to work out a plan to help solve the problems I had created in my mind. Once I realized this was counterproductive and decided to use these fears as motivation to live so that this would never actually happen to them, my whole perspective changed, and I pulled through and survived beating the odds that were stacked against me.
On 5th January 2015 I started on a clinical trial of a new targeted therapy. In the first six weeks all my tumours reduced by greater than 50 per cent. In three months I had an all clear PET scan, indicating there was no active cancer in my body. The cancer in my bones had healed, lymph nodes returned to normal size and blood was flowing back through my pulmonary artery again.
Being given a second chance in life can be viewed in so many different ways, particularly when you are still battling a potentially life threatening disease, however implementing a positive outlook for me was so important.
Help me raise awareness about the importance of healthy lungs, and the power of breath for a life of vitality.