Andy Lindsay, 61, had been an avid mountaineering hiker, biker, skier and climber for more than 40 years. In the summer of 2013 – after experiencing acute shortness of breath during one of his outdoor athletic adventures – he knew something wasn’t right. Several tests and doctor visits later, Lindsay was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Lindsay – a non-smoker – was told a mutation in the EGFR gene was fueling the multiple spots on both lungs and in his brain. Determined to fight and maintain his active lifestyle, he sought the help of several area oncologists before coming to the MGH Cancer Center, where he began a treatment regimen of different targeted therapies, chemotherapy and radiation. When his advanced cancer stopped responding to these treatments, he enrolled in a novel clinical trial under the care of Zofia Piotrowska, MD, of the Hematology/Oncology Department. The targeted therapy clinical trial is an EGFR inhibitor that disables the genes that keep the tumor from growing and spreading.
Feeling empowered after his cancer responded well to this treatment, Lindsay and his wife Jan recently embarked on a three-week trip of a lifetime – that doubled as a fundraising initiative that raised $23,000 for the MGH – to hike and climb the Himalayas in Nepal. It took days for his diseased lungs to acclimate to the diminished oxygen levels so far above sea level, but soon he was on his way up the steep slopes of Mount Mera, a neighbor to nearby Mount Everest.
“This was one of the most grueling – and at times painful – hikes of my life,” says Lindsay. “Each step was more difficult than the one before, but in the end it was one of the most rewarding experiences to stand atop the peak at 21,000 feet. I am truly grateful for the team at MGH who helped make this miracle happen.”
Piotrowska agrees. “This is the most incredible journey I can imagine. I am so proud of Andy. To see him succeed enriches what we do here and proves what we can all accomplish together.”
Read more articles from the 11/10/17 Hotline issue.