Marlene Nadler-Moodie was given only three months to live when she was first diagnosed with lung cancer.
Four years later, the Carmel Valley resident is participating in the seventh annual San Diego Free to Breathe Run/Walk on Aug. 7 at Embarcadero Marina Park North.
“Nothing’s going to stop me,” Nadler-Moodie said.
After dealing with a dry cough for several weeks, Nadler-Moodie finally made a doctor’s appointment.
It was a busy time. In addition to her travels, in 2012, she was working as a full-time clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry at Scripps Health. She was also serving as president of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association.
“It didn’t really bother me at all,” said Nadler-Moodie, who has lived in San Diego since 1983 and Carmel Valley since 1990. “I kind of assumed it was from travel.”
Otherwise healthy, Nadler-Moodie’s physician gave her the green light, but also ordered a chest X-ray.
The X-ray led to a CAT scan, bronchoscopy and appointments with specialists within the next several days. She was eventually diagnosed with inoperable stage-three lung cancer.
“That was kind of ‘Wow,’” she said. “One day you’re that and the next day you’re something else.”
With the surgery too risky, Nadler-Moodie underwent chemotherapy and radiation, eventually losing her hair. The hardest part, however, was telling her two adult sons about her diagnosis.
“My philosophy was I’m going to live every day; I’m not going to die every day,” said Nadler-Moodie, noting that she and her husband have traveled out of the country at least 16 times over the past four years.
The cancer eventually spread to both lungs, changing her diagnosis to stage-four lung cancer. Open and willing to try new treatments, Nadler-Moodie tried targeted radiation, the drug Tarceva and an immunotherapy drug called Opdivo. In recent months, she has had two new treatments through a clinical trial with a lung cancer specialist at UC San Diego.
She will have another treatment and scan just prior to participating in the Free to Breathe Run/Walk.
“I hope I’ll be thinking good thoughts,” Nadler-Moodie said.
While researching lung cancer online, Nadler-Moodie learned about Free to Breathe, a nonprofit that serves as a partnership of lung cancer survivors, advocates, researchers, healthcare professionals and industry leaders dedicated to doubling lung cancer survival by 2022.
This is the fourth year her team, Marlene’s Wish, is participating in the event, which features a 5K run/walk, one-mile walk and quarter-mile kids’ dash. A total of 415 people participated in the event last year, raising $40,900. This year organizers anticipate about 500 participants and hope to raise $50,000.
“We’re doing something good for lung cancer,” Nadler-Moodie said.
More people in the United States die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 212,584 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, and 156,176 people died from lung cancer.
Longtime nurse and Solana Beach resident Terri Wyatt has worked closely with lung cancer patients over the years. She encourages early screening to help with lung cancer survival.
Recent guidelines from the American Society of Clinical Oncology suggest annual screening with low-dose computed tomography for smokers and former smokers at high risk for developing lung cancer. High-risk factors include being between the age of 55 to 74, having smoked for 30 years or more, and either continuing to smoke or having quit within the past 15 years.
“By the time somebody has symptoms, they’re usually stage four,” said Wyatt, who has worked as a nurse at Sharp Memorial Hospital in Kearny Mesa since 1984. “It stays hidden for a long time. That’s the thing that makes lung cancer so difficult and why it’s one of the leading causes of cancer death.”
With a team from Sharp, Wyatt is participating in the Free to Breathe Run/Walk for the second year.
“Just because you have lung cancer, it’s not necessarily a death sentence. I think that’s an important part of participating in these walks, plus raising money for more awareness and research,” said Wyatt, who has had an uncle and a friend die from lung cancer. “You just never know when you might be touched by lung cancer.”
The San Diego Free to Breathe Run/Walk begins at 7:45 a.m. Aug. 7 at Embarcadero Marina Park North, located at 400 Kettner Boulevard in San Diego. Special recognition will be given to top finishers and fundraisers.
All proceeds will support Free to Breathe. The lung cancer research and advocacy organization has raised more than $14 million to support research and educational programs since 2005. This year, the organization will be funding two new lung cancer research grants totaling over $1.2 million dollars.
For more about Free to Breathe, or to register for the Run/Walk, visit freetobreathe.org/sandiego