Nancy Hale was offered a 30 percent possibility of making it through three years as soon as she was diagnosed through lung cancer. Yet today, 6 years after her initial diagnosis and because of an immunotherapy clinical trial, Hale is in remission—and “blazing the trail” for various other patients.

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It all began with a feeling that something to be not quite right. Hale, an energetic resident the Burlington, Vt. That loves snowshoeing, cycling, and also other outdoor activities, competent that feeling in April 2012.

Hale was skiing 12,000 feet above sea level in Colorado through her husband, Dave, who she had married 6 months earlier. After return from a work of hitting the slopes, she felt brief of breath and also extremely tired, leading her to wonder if she was experiencing altitude sickness.

Nancy Hale.

The following day, she wake up up and also couldn’t relocate or breathe. There was excruciating pain in she chest the “hurt favor the dickens,” Hale recalls. But she to be resolute: She remained in Colorado, and also she was going to walk skiing.

She did, and the ache subsided. However Hale still had that nagging emotion that something was wrong, and also she do an meeting to check out the doctor. One X-ray revealed the news: She had actually stage III non-small cabinet lung cancer. There was an eight-centimeter tumor in her best lung, which had actually spread to her lymph nodes and also chest.

Hale’s oncologist in Vermont said she undergo 12 main of chemotherapy and also radiation, which slowed down the cancer’s growth, but only momentarily. It was back again four months later, and after an ext chemo, the cancer returned when more. After ~ her 2nd year of treatment, through which suggest her cancer to be categorized as phase IV, she was told she would have actually three an ext years to live.


Hale was tired of all of the treatment, and also opted to avoid chemotherapy. Meanwhile, her girlfriend urged she to discover clinical trials. She did, and with the assist of her vermont oncologist, she landed on a trial in ~ Cancer academy under the treatment of Geoffrey R. Oxnard, MD, that the Lowe facility for Thoracic Oncology. She received biweekly infusions that pembrolizumab (Keytruda), one immunotherapy drug that provides the immune mechanism to attack cancer.

“Before I acquired on the clinical trial, ns said, ‘I’ve gained to think about this since I don’t recognize if it’s worth it because that me,’” Hale says. “I later on told mine friend that he conserved my life.”

It to be a 216-mile one-way drive from vermont to in Boston and also throughout therapy Hale knowledgeable some of the worst winter storms Boston had seen in decades. However she uncovered a way to look in ~ the glowing side: “I would simply smile part nights because it was so beautiful,” she reminiscences.

And it to be worth it: Scans proved that Hale’s cancer was shrinking due to the fact that of the immunotherapy, and finally, a scan revealed the ideal news—no sign of the cancer in ~ all. In October 2015, Oxnard traction Hale turn off of the treatment, assuring she that can go earlier on the therapy if need be.

“I said, ‘Nancy, we’re front of the curve here; we never ever expected wednesday be here, and we’re blazing the trail,’” Oxnard recalls. “Nancy is an amazing example of exactly how you can take who who’s dying of lung cancer and instead, help them live v lung cancer—even work-related to put it behind them,” Oxnard says.

Three year later, Hale is still healthy, and she’s active in the lung cancer patience community. She has actually participated in the annual Stowe Weekend that Hope, whereby she has met various other patients gift treated through pembrolizumab—now authorized as standard treatment because that some develops of non-small cabinet lung cancer. She also helps counsel and also support patient one-on-one, is a plank member the the American Lung Association, and is functioning on starting up her very own Vermont support group.

And she make the efforts to invest as lot time as she have the right to with Dave, her 2 sons, Brent and also Travis, and also her three grandchildren.

“I do think about myself a success story, and I think I’m here for a purpose,” she says.

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Learn much more about lung cancer treatment from the Lowe facility for Thoracic Oncology at Cancer Institute.