Penny Blume and Don Stranathan share their Story:
"Our story is about two people falling in love on a cancer web site while in the battle of our life’s with terminal lung cancer. October 10th 2012 will have been a year since Penny and I first chatted online and I don’t think in our wildest dreams we would have guessed how the relationship would have played out.
Penny posted a topic on the cancer web site Inspire and I replied to her question about the benefits of juicing while on chemotherapy. That started a daily conversation on the web sites Inspire and Facebook in addition to hundreds of texts over the following months.
Last November Penny was in Sloan Kettering in New York for a liver ablation that went from an overnight stay to a three day outing, because of complications. Penny was pretty depressed that she had to stay in the city for three days. I figured flowers would cheer her up, so I called the gift shop and they were kind enough to give me her room number and sent her up a flower arraignment, I think the flowers took our relationship to the next level.
We would joke around on the phone that if and when we were to meet how our first dinner date would go. We knew we would never be stuck for words and would always have topics for conversation with both of us fighting cancer.
Sometime around Thanksgiving we make the decision to meet. One of Penny’s friends would tease her about the fact that most people have a first date at a local coffee shop or a public place, but not Penny she was going to travel to California to meet a guy for the first time. We both chuckle about the fact with cancer you don’t always do things the conventional way.
Penny flew out for her first visit to California in January of 2012. I picked her up at the San Francisco airport and I admit we were both a bit nervous. We knew everything about each other but still there was that anticipation of meeting in person. Within hours after meeting we were both very comfortable and planning out our agenda for Penny’s visit.
Penny had never been on the West Coast, so for our first visit we spent a few days in Lake Tahoe, then back to my house in Santa Rosa to refresh. Midweek we then spent a few days in a bed and breakfast in the romantic town of Mendocino on the Sonoma coast.
It was very hard knowing Penny would have to leave in a few days and return home for more treatment. Penny decided she would return again in April to help plan my 60th birthday party, which gave us something to look forward to in April. We had a wonderful time on her first visit and another wonderful time in April. Penny was able to meet a lot of my friends on the trip in April and of course they all loved her and now she has wonderful friends supporting her on both coasts.
I had promised Penny I would come to New York in June for her 50th birthday party, but April to June was just too long to be apart, so I decided to come out in May for a quick visit and then again in June for her 50th birthday.
I have been very fortunate, my company Scott Technology Group allowed me to buy some extra vacation time when I used up my regular vacation; they have all met Penny and have been very supportive of our long distance relationship and all through my treatment the last few years.
I am currently in Mongaup Valley, New York with Penny for ten days visit and then we are both flying back to California for thirty days. Penny’s son Josh is getting married in Las Vegas the first week of October, so we will spend a week in a time share and attend the wedding and do a bit of sightseeing.
Penny and I are planning on spending a few days in Yosemite on her next trip to California. We have a lot on our bucket list and I think planning our future visits, short trips and family events is what keeps us both going strong and excited about the future.
I think if we were both healthy we would already be living on the same coast, but with us both fighting cancer it is never that easy, we have all we can do to plan time together around our treatments.
I was DX with Stage 4 Non Small Cell Lung Cancer in June of 2009, since then I have done a month of radiation on a tumor that was blocking 90% of my bronchus tube, then six cycles of Carbo, Taxol and Avastin to the tumors in both lungs. They then gave me six cycles of Gemzar for two nodules on my liver. I have been very fortunate and have been stable since starting on Tarceva in January of 2010.
Penny was DX in May of 2011 with Small Cell Lung Cancer (Extensive) she was given six cycles Cisplatin and Etopicide, she then had an ablation performed on her liver and adrenal gland. The tumors in her lungs were still growing so they performed 15 rounds of radiation on her lungs.
In December of 2011 for preventative measures Penny had 15 rounds on PCI radiation to her brain. In January of 2012 Penny found a lump under her left arm and one on her back and they scheduled another scan. They found all the tumors were growing and scheduled her for CAV, IV Chemotherapy. Penny was given only four rounds of CAV when they realized it was not working.
The next option was Temodar, an oral chemotherapy, that is a twenty eight day cycle, but the pill is only taken for the first five days. This has been showing promise; Penny just finished her third round and will be starting her fourth round while we are in California.
The good news is the Temodar seems to be keeping the tumors in her lungs stable, but Penny started becoming sick to her stomach and they did an MRI on her brain and found three new nodules, so while on the Temodar Penny started fifteen rounds of whole brain radiation, which she just finished before I arrived in New York.
Penny is still scheduled for Stereotactic radiation for the three brain nodules when she returns from California in mid October. I admire her strength; she has been through a lot in such a short time.
Penny and I were asked to tell our story; we agreed to promote awareness of the need for funding for lung cancer research. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer; it kills more women than all the other cancers combined. One Hundred and Sixty Thousand people died from lung cancer last year. That is like a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day for a year.
For anyone battling cancer don’t give up hope, anything is possible. Penny and I found love on a cancer web site and that love is what is keeping us both committed to battling lung cancer and living strong."