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Richard Heimler

Richard HeimlerI am a former non-profit executive and father of two, a five time and eight year lung cancer survivor of lung cancer. I was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at the age of 44.

I had pneumonectomy surgery of my right lung in 2004.  Two years later, I was diagnosed with a small malignant brain tumor. It was successful removed surgically. This was followed with six months of chemotherapy. A year later, I was diagnosed with a small malignant tumor in my right thoracic area under my ribs and it was successfully removed.  A year later, I was diagnosed with another small brain tumor (same region of the brain) and had gamma knife radiation to successful destroy the tumor. A year later, I was diagnosed with multiple small tumors on my left lung and immediately began chemotherapy.

When my cancer progressed to stage 4, my health care team informed me of a new therapeutic target in cancer called ALK, that is present in about 3-5% of NSCLC tumors. I had my tissue tested for ALK soon after, and the results came back positive. I then enrolled in a phase 2 Pfizer clinical trial of Xalkori, a first-in-class compound that inhibits ALK, blocking signaling in a number of cell pathways that may be critical for the growth and survival of tumor cells.

My doctors now cannot see the tumors on his CT scans, my pulmonary function is the best in years and my doctors are using the word “remission” for the first time in three years. I feel healthier, am more energetic and am thankful to be able to spend more time with my friends and family.

I have also been an active member of the Lung Cancer Alliance community, providing other newly diagnosed lung cancer patients with inspiration and advice. I believe one of my responsibilities as a survivor is to be a voice for the 1.4 million people that have died of lung cancer since I was diagnosed in April 2004.  I am proud to be an advocate for lung cancer and raise awareness of lung cancer with the media, politicians and the general public.

I have faith that someday someone will find something that will put a stop to the unbelievable number of lung cancer deaths each year so that my fellow lung cancer survivors and I may look forward to celebrating many more birthdays.