How a Preventive Test Changed the Course of My Life


Author: Rodney Gibson

This past August, I woke up one morning with soreness in my hip. Several days earlier, friends and I played tennis so it kind of made sense but it was odd that I would experience initial soreness so many days later.

All good. I’ll power through. I’ll walk it off.

In September, a cold made its way around our home. My wife and kids go through with a few sniffles, but it had me out for two weeks.

I feel like garbage. Why am I so tired? I’ll power through. I’ll walk it off.

As soon as I bounced back, my mother-in-law saw me limping and suggested I see her orthopedic surgeon. They suggested a cortisone shot. It helped for a day and a half. The next step was an MRI and CT scan.

Bummer, I may need surgery. I’ll power through. I’ll walk it off.

Following the imaging, my orthopedic surgeon shared that he suspected Lymphoma. As a middle school student, I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It has been three decades, but for anyone with a history of cancer, potential recurrence is a perpetual whisper.

Sigh, I’ve got Lymphoma again. I’ll power through. It’ll be okay.

Here began a painfully slow diagnostic process. Every handoff seemed to include a referral, PAUSE, scheduling, PAUSE, test, PAUSE, results interpretation, PAUSE, then news of findings.

ARE. YOU. SERIOUS. (Could this move any slower?)

I’m approaching a decade of working in digital health and this slow process exemplifies some of the broken pieces of healthcare. Why isn’t there an industry-standard rapid triage anytime a serious illness is suspected? What role could preventive testing play?

Our work at ixlayer centers on providing seamless lab diagnostics for any test, in any place, via any modality. We equip consumers and clinicians with proactive tools for early detection and treatment with an upper hand.

The primary motivation that drives the “why” behind my decision to join ixlayer, is increased access to health data means earlier diagnoses and greater human flourishing. Early action leads to more pre-patients instead of patients. Ben Franklin famously said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We are helping providers and patients to adopt a preventive testing mindset.

It makes economic sense for our clients that align with our mission to deliver accessible, affordable and trusted health testing to people everywhere. If you are a payer, the nominal investment in preventive testing results in cost savings from early detection, accelerated diagnostic paths, and members with improved outcomes. Retail partners benefit from increased member engagement and brand loyalty as trust increases and member health improves.

As the puzzle pieces fell into place, my doctor sat me down and said, “You have metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.” Yep, I’m a non-smoker who somehow got lung cancer. Metastasis to the hips (the source of my hobble) meant it was in Stage IV and incurable. A PET scan later showed it was also in my shoulder, liver, and brain.

Okay, I’ve got lung cancer that has jumped to my bones, liver, and brain. It’s not curable. I’m not going to be able to power through. I can’t walk this off.

My wife knew of Guardant Health and pushed to have genetic testing done in preparation to exhaust all options. Why wasn’t it second nature for my oncologist to point me to Guardant from day one, instead of over a month after my preliminary diagnosis? It would have saved valuable time and prevented so much stress. 

On November 28, 2022, I received the most welcomed voice message. “I know you are supposed to start chemo today but that won’t be necessary. The [Guardant] test came back with what is called an ALK mutation and it can be targeted with a form of gene therapy.”

Did we understand that correctly? When reality hit us, we hugged and cried tears of joy.

On December 1, 2022, just after 3 pm, FedEx arrived with the most anticipated delivery of my lifetime, my medicine. As I opened it, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the research, time, money, energy, and life that was poured into what I was holding. It was a bottle of hope.

For two weeks, I hadn’t left bed other than for medical appointments and the bathroom. I was that weak. The following day, after my first doses, I woke up feeling like I had a new body. My energy was returning. By day two, I could take a deep breath again. Twice a day, I take four little pills that chip away at the cancer that almost took me out.

As of today, I’m at week 10 of this treatment plan. I know I have Stage IV cancer, but I feel amazing. I hope that I manage the extra time well, loving people deeply and leaving my little mark on my family, my community, and my professional endeavors. I’m a walking case study for what I do professionally. I can’t envision doing anything else with these extra innings.