Savannah woman pushes for earlier screening, biomarker testing for lung cancer

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, a chance to help bring more attention to the cancer that is the leading cause of death worldwide
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 2:10 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - For a long time, Jaymie Knox would much rather play pool, than talk about her fight.

“I was really kind of closed off about it.”

Maybe that’s because there life was simple but away from the pool table Jaymie’s life had become anything but.

“I walked out of that hospital with a diagnosis that was came out of left field.”

Earlier that year she developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath something doctors told her was likely asthma.

A response she willingly accepted for a time.

“I just really didn’t pay much attention to it until I was running in the gym on the treadmill I got to about a quarter of a mile and realized I wasn’t breathing so I had to stop. I just wasn’t getting enough oxygen,” explained Knox.

Returning to the hospital again, this time the doctors ordered a chest x-ray.

And what they found, “He’s like, ‘you have your entire left lung covered in fluid and a mass. I need to admit you to the hospital right now.’ I was like, ‘whoa, wait a minute.’”

Jaymie was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.

Shocking news for anyone to hear, but maybe more so for her given her age at the time, just 32 and her health history.

“To get a stage for lung cancer diagnosis and be a non-smoker, active, healthy, no allergies, no history of cancer in my family, it really threw my life into a tailspin.”

While Jaymie’s diagnosis is rare, according to Associate Professor of Medicine at Winship Cancer Institute Dr. Ticiana Leal, it’s not unheard of.

“There needs to be more awareness of lung cancer as a disease. That it can be a disease of younger patients. That it can be a disease of patients who never smoked, or rarely smoked, or who are remote former smokers.”

Despite Jaymie’s life seemingly heading into a tailspin, she would catch a break, thanks to a specialized test run by her doctors.

“Biomarker testing is pretty much the reason I’m still here and alive today.”

Biomarker testing is a way to look for genes, proteins and other substances that can provide information about cancer…more importantly how best to treat it.

And in Jaymie’s case, “It’s treatable, it’s manageable. Essentially no chemo, no radiation, just targeted therapy as long as I’m responsive to it,” she says.

So, now four years later Jaymie is in what’s considered a medically induced remission, and she’s turned her focus to advocacy for the test that saved her life.

“I don’t think that the patient should have to tell the doctor to do biomarker testing. We shouldn’t have to tell the doctors how to give us the best possible care, that’s their job.”

Working along side an organization called ‘LUNGevity’ to raise awareness and change what they call outdated criteria for lung cancer screening.

“Even me today, sitting here at this table talking to you, I’m still not a candidate for lung cancer screening. I still wouldn’t be considered a candidate,” Knox says.

Needless to say, Jaymie isn’t so closed off anymore when it comes to talking about her diagnosis and instead is hoping others might use her struggle…as their strength.

“Every time I share my if I can touch or inspire one person, I know I made a difference. My sincere hope of this interview is that if I can get a least one person to go ask their doctor about screening or biomarker testing it was all worth it.”

For more information about LUNGevity, click here.