Livin’ life a quarter year at a time #alectinib #39months #boringisgood #burgerbach #givingback

I made my quarterly trek to Charlottesville earlier this month and everything remains stable! My scans look the same as they did the first time I got the good news over 3 years ago. I even talked to my oncologist, Dr. Hall, about how routine these appointments have gotten and that boring appointments are good appointments. I couldn’t ask for anything more and just pray the medication keeps responding this well indefinitely.

I also wanted to provide an update from my last post related to the partnership with Burger Bach to raise money for ALK Positive. Thanks to everyone who sacrificed their six-pack abs (don’t worry – summer is still 3 months away) to support lung cancer research, we were able to raise $1,117 to fund further advancements in ALK rearranged lung cancer research. We even received support from friends from Harrisonburg!

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Lung cancer survivor from Harrisonburg, VA at Burger Bach Charlottesville

I also wanted to sincerely thank Burger Bach for GIVING BACH and helping to support ALK Positive lung cancer patients from around the WORLD. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU!

ALK Positive + Burger Bach = LIFE #smacattack

In partnership with Burger Bach, a local New Zealand inspired gastropub, we are working to raise money for ALK Positive during the entire month of March! For every S’Mac Attack sold during the month, $1 will go to help fund research for further advancement in cancer treatments. Support small business and a good cause this month and stop by a participating Burger Bach near you (Richmond – Short Pump and Midlothian (sorry no Carytown), Charlottesville, and Durham, NC)!

We had these for dinner the other night and let me tell you, these burgers are AMAZING! Between the juicy burger, delicious sauces, and cheesy mac, you can’t go wrong. Just thinking about it, I think we’re going to need another burger night this weekend 🙂

Happy New Year! #cancerversary #cheersto3years #vaccinated #advocacy #wildginger

As we begin the new year, I wanted to take the time to pause and reflect. December 16 marked 3 years since my initial diagnosis. That is 3 years of life which, at the time, I wasn’t expecting to get. I remember hoping to hear my daughter’s first words, watch her first steps and thinking that my career was over. Now, Avery says “I love you daddy” and quickly runs away from me. As for my career, if you’ve read my prior posts, you know that I finished my residency and I’m an attending at VCU. I got my last scans on Thursday and things continue to be stable so I’ll be staying the course on Alectinib.

Christmas 2020

I would be remiss not to also reflect on 2020. Like everyone else, COVID-19 has hit us hard. We have, for the most part, been extra cautious (i.e. wearing masks everywhere, using Instacart/curbside pickup, meeting with limited friends outdoors and socially distanced) and are craving the next time we will be able to go on a real vacation (Lake Anna was been nice, but we would like to go a little further than 45 minutes away). Fortunately, I see getting outside of VA sometime in 2021 a real possibility. I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Friday and I am hopeful that anyone else who wants one will be able to get it soon!

Getting my COVID vaccine

Fortunately, we were also able to continue our advocacy for lung cancer in 2020. As I mentioned in my last blog post, we partnered again with Wild Ginger in Midlothian, VA for my birthday to raise funds for lung cancer research. Between the partnership with Wild Ginger and donations from family and friends who donated directly to my birthday fundraiser, we raised just over $2,500 for ALK Positive. Although that was less than we made last year, I am so grateful for every dollar that we raised and thankful that Wild Ginger made this possible by supporting our efforts in such a tough year for most restaurants and small businesses.

Another way to show advocacy is by spreading the word so people understand that lung cancer doesn’t discriminate based on age, perceived health, socioeconomic status or even on whether or not you smoke. Since I am a prime example of this (quick recap: I was 30 when I was diagnosed, no other health conditions, on my way to being a surgeon, and didn’t smoke), getting my story out in my community is one of the biggest ways I can contribute. In January 2021, oral surgeons across the country will be able to read my story as the featured article in AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon) Today, our bi-monthly newsletter

We hope to continue our advocacy into 2021 and already have plans to keep it going, so stay turned!

Another year in the clear #birthday #covidvacation #fundraiser

Although the days seem long during the pandemic, this year is flying by! I can’t believe 3 months have already passed since my last scan. First off, what everyone is interested in: I went in for a scan last month and things remain stable. COVID-19 precautions are still full scale, but otherwise it felt like a routine appointment.

Since my last post in July, I have been settling into my new role as an OMFS Attending at VCU Medical Center. It has been a fun and relatively easy transition from being a resident to becoming an attending, and I think it is due to the fact that I had completed my residency here. It feels more like a natural progression instead of starting a new job completely. I do appreciate the autonomy and finally calling my own shots during surgery. One of the perks of the new job is having my own office!!! It looks pretty boring but it’s nice to have my own space.

View from my chair

We also managed to get in a couple of trips away from home. Before COVID-19 hit, we had grand plans to take a trip to Europe for a few weeks to celebrate completing my training and explore new places that we’ve never been. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen this year (maybe next year?), but we were at least able to have a couple of nice family trips to nearby Lake Anna. We were able to spend time away with Avery’s cousins, my in-laws, and some close family friends.

Last month, I also celebrated by 33rd birthday. Varisara helped to start a fundraiser during my birthday month last year to raise money for ALK Positive lung cancer research. This year we were unable to have a dinner event like last year (for obvious reasons), but thanks to my cousin, Liem Tran, and his amazing work family we were again able to partner with Wild Ginger in Midlothian, VA. Liem created a very special Tran Roll that was available for the whole month of October where $4 from every roll sold will go toward research for ALK Positive lung cancer. In a time that has not been easy for small businesses, we are extremely grateful for the support and glad we have been able to support small businesses as well (we have ordered takeout from there almost every week!). Even more fortunately, Wild Ginger will continue to have the Tran Roll available until the end of the year! I guess sushi will be on the menu in the Tran household weekly for the rest of the year 🙂

If you are not local to Richmond and also wanted to support the cause, feel free to donate directly to my ALK Positive campaign here: https://lungevity.donordrive.com/campaign/Dan-s-Birthday

What a month! #familyouting #27thgrade #finallydone #clearscans

It has only been a month since my last post, but it has been a busy month! As I mentioned in my last post, I have throughly enjoyed spending quality time with family. We had our first family outing since we began quarantining 4 months ago in March. We had a great Saturday in Charlottesville strawberry picking at Chiles Family Orchard and picnicking at King Family Vineyards. We felt very comfortable with the safety standards and operations at both places and of course, we stayed socially distant from others and wore masks (even Avery!).

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The next week I completed my training in Oral and Facial Surgery, closing out 27 years of education. I asked Varisara (semi-jokingly) what she thought about me going back to get my MBA (what’s another 2 years, right?). She did not seem pleased. We had originally planned a big hurrah to celebrate this accomplishment, but obviously COVID-19 deterred our plans a bit. I was grateful to be able to have a small celebration with my family as well as my attendings and fellow residents, all the people that helped to get me through these past few years.

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In all honesty, when I was first diagnosed 2.5 years ago, I never thought this would be even remotely possible. Now, I have accomplished my life goal of becoming a surgeon. Although I am not going back to school (Varisara won that battle….for now), I will be remain in academia as an OMFS attending at VCU.

This past Thursday, I had my latest scans and appointments. For those interested in my treatment plan, I take Alectinib (for the cancer) and Eliquis (blood thinner to prevent clots) daily. Every 3 months I get a CT scan to make sure the disease is stable in the lungs and bones and every 6 months I get an MRI to ensure the disease has not spread to the brain.  This past appointment was again different from the new norm to which I had become accustom.  When we arrived at Emily Couric Cancer Center at UVA, masks were required, every person entering the facility was required to have their temperature taken, and no guests were permitted. I appreciate the rigor as the majority of people entering these facilities are at higher risks due to their medical conditions. Aside from that, all went well and both scans continued to remain stable!

Is this a simulation? #westworld #covid19 #telehealth #quarantined #perspective

Saying that a lot has happened in the 5 months since my last post would be an understatement. If you asked me in February “what is the craziest thing you ever lived through?”, cancer would unequivocally be #1 and the only thing I could have come up with. Now in just a few short months, I have added a pandemic and global movement  against social injustice. I have found myself asking many times “is this a simulation?” (this should resonate for any Westworld fans). In this blog post, I am going to provide my perspectives on everything that has taken place over the past few months from 3 different vantage points: as a doctor, as a patient, and as a father.

Doctor: In January 2020, the first case of an unknown virus called COVID-19 entered the US, but we didn’t start to feel the impacts of this unknown strand of coronavirus until March 2020. I didn’t realize how serious it was until things began to shutdown. If you recall, I work in a hospital as an Oral and Facial Surgery resident. Before this, hospitals NEVER shut down. Little did I know that when I walked in for a training on March 16th, it would be the last day I set foot into VCU Medical Center for months. I remember having conversations that day with peers about potential scenarios and closures that may occur. Sure enough, everything (i.e. the dental school, clinics, operating rooms) closed for anything that was not considered an emergency. We knew very little about the the coronavirus, but there were a few things that we did know: 1) it had potentially severe respiratory impacts, which is not great for anyone who had pre-existing conditions impacting the lungs like me, and 2) it was a very fluid situation and would change daily.  As a department, we had to scramble to figure out a schedule for our residents and attendings that would minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 as well as how to continue our education in a remote environment having been entirely in-person until that point, all without an understanding of how long this would endure. Knowing that stage 4 lung cancer made me a higher risk patient, my department worked to minimize any need for me to go into the hospital. That meant virtual learning / lectures and telehealth, which are probably the least enjoyable parts of my job. As a surgeon, I love being in the OR and performing surgery; however, we all knew that preserving my health was the best thing for everyone.  

After months of remote working, I finally re-entered the hospital for the first time since this all began this past Monday, June 8th and went right back into the OR, a place that has always provided me an escape. I am ecstatic to be able to finish my training in the hospital because in just 16 days, my 27 years of education will be complete as I finish my OMFS residency.

Patient: It was an interesting experience going in for my quarterly scan in April as a patient. Usually, these appointments take up almost an entire day, but this time they split up the appointments. My scans and bloodwork were one day and my usual appointment with Dr. Hall was over the phone. For my scans and bloodwork, it was eerie seeing an empty hospital and empty waiting rooms.  Only people who absolutely needed to be seen were in the hospital and everyone was wearing a mask. I was thankful that UVA had taken proper precautions to protect their patients and staffAs for my call with Dr. Hall, it was funny being on the other side of the phone for a telehealth appointment (I wonder if he feels the same way as I do about them?). The important thing though was the scans remained stable and we are staying the course. My next visit is in just a few weeks so fingers crossed that everything still looks good!

Father: The other thing that I’ve gained in these past 5 months is a lot of perspective about being a parent and about the world in the year 2020. Since I worked remotely for almost 3 months, I probably spent more time with my daughter during this quarantine than I had all of in 2019 combined. I cherished waking up to her happy face in the mornings and singing her to bed every night. It made me appreciate being a parent more than ever before.

The spread of COVID-19, which originated from Wuhan, China, caused a rise in hate crimes toward the asian community. This rise in violent racism toward asians had personally concerned me and and made me start to worry more for the safety of my family, especially for my 2 year old daughter. Is she going to have to grow up in a world where she constantly has to look over her shoulder? I say this not to take pity on the asian community for being wrongfully attacked, but to acknowledge and understand that the recent insurgence against racial injustice are not without merit.

In light of all the recent protests over the death of George Floyd, I realized the worry that I felt for Avery is not even a fraction of the fear and concern that black people have endured for centuries. I have spent a lot of time trying to educate myself and listen to what is being asked for and what I’ve heard is nothing more than a cry to have a fair chance in this crazy world. I have found these videos to be great resources to help me better understand and broadened my perspectives on the situation:

Whether we are Republican or Democrat, we are all humans. I hope the humanity in us helps us to recognize that all people, regardless of color, race or religion, have a right to a fair chance at life. As a father, I hope to teach my daughter to grow up to be an educated and respectful young woman with an open mind and an open heart.

 

 

 

2 Year Cancerversary and Cancer Advancement #celebration #reflection #ALK #LUNGevity #research

Since my last post, I celebrated another amazing Christmas with family and friends. These days, best part of the holiday is not getting gifts, but seeing the reaction from Avery when she gets her gifts. It’s the most amazing feeling to see her smile and hear her screams of excitement.

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I also celebrated my 2 year cancerversary on December 16th. Earlier this month, we made our quarterly trek to Charlottesville and as we drove up there, I remembered that we made our first trip to see Dr. Hall around this time two years ago. I reflected on how nervous I was going into that trip thinking “what is going to be my prognosis going to be?” and “how many days/weeks/months do I have?”. Never in a million years did I think that these trips to Charlottesville would become a routine every three months where the doctor tells me that my scans are all clear. Until this visit, I’ve had questions for the doctor related to my health, research in the field, and advances. This time, I was fresh out of questions, which is a great thing 🙂

Speaking of research and advances, the LUNGevity foundation and ALK Positive have partnered to fund $1 million dollars in research with the ultimate goal of transforming ALK-positive lung cancer into a chronic or curable condition. Being in the medical field and having gone through advanced schooling over the the past 10+ years, I am very privileged to have a fantastic network of medical professionals and scientists. If there is anyone you know that has a background in cancer research and wants a chance at funding for their research, please encourage them to apply for one of the two available awards. For further details or to apply, use the following link: https://lungevity.org/our-research/translational-science-research-grant-programs/2020-alk-positive-lung-cancer-research

My hope is to help identify a researcher that may, one day, save my life and the life of so many other ALK Positive patients. Any help would be very much appreciated!

 

 

 

Lung Cancer Awareness Month #fundraisersuccess #savagesalmon #breathedeep #LCAM

For those who didn’t know, November is lung cancer awareness month. In honor of this, I wanted to share some of the facts that surprised me most when I was first diagnosed:

  1. 1 in 16 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their lifetime. That equates to one diagnosis every 2.3 minutes.
  2. Lung cancer is not a self-inflicted, smokers only disease. 60% to 65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
  3. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death, taking more lives annually than colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

#themoreyourknow

As mentioned in the last blog, we held our first ever fundraiser for lung cancer in honor of my birthday last month and it definitely surpassed my expectations. Thank you for everyone who donated directly or came out to the event. Our goal for the fundraiser was $2,500, and we surpassed that within just a couple weeks and were at $3,520 before the event was even held!

The event was a great success! My cousin Liem helped to design the menu. Below are a few of the amazing dishes he created. The Savage Salmon was my personal favorite.

We had a great turnout and raised $1,917 that night. What’s even better is that on the day of the event, the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer launched an ALK Positive Research Fund to finance critical research projects and very generous donors have agreed to match 150% of everything donated. That means the $1,917 raised from the event will equate to $4,792.50!

All in, $8,312.50 was donated in support of research for ALK rearranged lung cancer in our first year, more than tripling our initial goal! We hope this will become an annual event we can grow each year to contribute to making lung cancer a chronic and treatable disease.

I know a cure is right around the corner, but until then I hope to continue to travel the world and check some things off my bucket list. Varisara and I just got back from a parents-only trip to Costa Rica where we went ziplining, rode horses, enjoyed hot springs and a mud bath from an inactive volcano, and represented ALK positive. With views as breath-taking as we experienced sometimes it’s hard, but I always try to remember to #breathedeep because you never know when it will be your last.

 

 

Guest Blog: Happy Birthday Dan! #32andthriving #dansbirthdayfundraiser #iaslcstar2020

Guest writer: Varisara Tran

Today is a special day and I wanted to take this opportunity as a guest blogger to wish Dan a very happy birthday! Today, Dan is 32 and thriving and Avery and I are so happy to be celebrating today with you.

I realize it has been a very long time since his last update (I’ll get on Dan about that one). Since the last post, we’ve just been living life and keeping busy: Dan started his chief year in residency (finally, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel!), we went on a family vacation to West Palm Beach, and Avery turned 2 (how did that happen so quickly?!?). This past week, we went to Emily Couric Cancer Center at UVA for Dan’s most recent scan and all was clear! We are so thankful that the disease remains at bay.

With this good news, we are focusing our efforts on advocacy and awareness! In partnership with Wild Ginger in Richmond, VA, I am helping to celebrate Dan’s birthday all month by organizing a birthday fundraiser dinner on October 29th where a portion of the proceeds from the evening will go directly to fund lung cancer research. It is a 4-course dinner, with 2 of the courses specially designed by Dan’s cousin Liem, paired with wine for $60. If you are local to the area, we would love to see you there! Call soon as seats have been filling up fast!DansBirthdayBash_flyer_v2.jpgFor those of you who are not local to Richmond, please feel free to contribute directly at this site: https://lungevity.donordrive.com/campaign/Dans-Birthday

Dan is also trying to get into the advocacy action! The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) has a STARS (Supportive Training for Advocates on Research & Science) Program that aims to increase the number of Patient Research Advocates (PRAs) equipped to provide accurate scientific translation in their lung cancer patient/caregiver groups and to provide the patient perspective for lung cancer research and policy. As part of the Program, participants attend the World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC), the world’s largest meeting dedicated to lung cancer and other thoracic malignancies. More than 7,000 delegates come from more than 100 countries to discuss the latest developments in thoracic malignancy research. How cool would it be for Dan to represent ALK Positive and the US in this forum? It is a competitive program where only a select number of PRAs (5 in 2019) are selected each year, but I can’t think of a better PRA than a practicing surgeon living with ALK-rearranged lung cancer? Keep your fingers crossed that Dan gets selected!

That’s all I have for now. I promise I will try to get Dan to post updates more frequently, but you know what they say: no news is good news. Happy Birthday to my amazing husband!

 

Lungevity Conference and Fun in the Sun #ILCSC #ALKies #FamilyVacay #SPF120

I just got back from a very busy, but rewarding, week of travel. Last weekend, Varisara and I attended Lungevity’s International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference. The conference was held for the first time in 2010 and less than 20 people attended that first year. This is how many people were there this year:

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I met so many amazing and inspiring people that it would take a novel for me to describe them all! Here are a few that stuck out:

  • Chris Draft is a former NFL player who started Team Draft (www.teamdraft.org), a national campaign to change the face of lung cancer, when his wife Keasha was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2010. Like me, she was a young, healthy, non-smoker. Sadly, Keasha passed in 2011, but Chris continues to fight this battle in her honor. He mentioned that being in the medical field, I can help to influence and promote early detection among my colleagues.

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  • Amanda organized an ALK meet-up where I was able to meet with my other fellow “ALKies” from around the world. It was great to be able to talk to people who knew exactly what I was going through and empathize with my struggles (e.g. drugs we’re all on and the related side effects, the fact that we’re never in remission and will always (hopefully) be on some sort of pill or treatment).
  • Gina is the president of ALK positive (www.alkpositive.org), a patient-driven support group dedicated to advancing research and advocacy to change the future of ALK positive lung cancer. We discussed how I can get more engaged in the group, become an advocate, and change the face of lung cancer.
  • Frank, a fellow ALKie, is a father of 3 young children who was diagnosed 5 years ago. He is also in his 30s and, since he’s a few years ahead of me on the journey, gave me great advice for planning for the future and how to navigate living in limbo (i.e. being in a constant state of unknown).
  • Amanda was 24 when she was diagnosed and now 4 years later she’s making the most of the cards she’s been dealt. She is a huge advocate for Lungevity and has an amazing, upbeat attitude. She set-up a meet-up for survivors under the age of 40 and I was surprised at the number of people that I met that are under 40 living with this disease. There were many people in the same situation as me with young children trying to figure out how to traverse this “new normal” while trying to raise a family.
  • There were survivors from all over the world who attended the conference, including some who have been battling the disease for over 15 years. It made me feel so hopeful that the progress being made in medical advances is headed in the right direction!

After the weekend ended, we both felt excited and re-energized to fight this battle. I know I can become a bigger advocate for this disease. I have been given a platform that not many people have to make my voice heard through my work as a resident and I plan to use it wisely. Varisara is also thinking up ideas to help the cause and is looking to organize a fundraiser in the near future. This isn’t the last you’ll be hearing from the Tran family and we hope anyone reading this will join us in our fight to kick cancer’s a$$! Even Avery is getting in on the action as she loved the swag that mommy and daddy brought back from the conference.

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On Monday after the conference we hopped on a plane and headed to Punta Cana for a much needed family vacation. We had a great week spending time with my parents, sister-in-law and her family, and family friends on sunny Bavaro Beach. Although, my wardrobe for beach vacations has changed a bit since being on Alectinib due to the increased photosensitivity. Sun protection clothing is in style now, right?

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This whole past week reminded me to take this fight one day at a time, keep making memories, and cherish the moments we get to spend with our loved ones.