Opera singer battles stage four lung cancer

((KGO))
November 20, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Seven months after a doctor told her she had only six months to live, San Francisco Opera singer Zheng Cao is still going strong. She is fighting stage four lung cancer. She never smoked and there is no history of lung cancer in her family.

Her spirits are soaring these days because the grueling treatments she has been undergoing are working.

"The brain alone was 24 tumors," said Cao. "I have tumors in my neck, bottom of my spine, and middle of my spine and then lymph nodes."

She has been keeping a video diary of her journey to share with us.

The gamma knife perfection machine at Fremont's Washington Hospital sends targeted beams of radiation into Cao's brain tumors. She also had radiation to her body tumors at UCSF and she is taking the chemotherapy drug Tarceva.

"I remember those days when I was sitting there in the dark and waking up in the middle of the night, absolutely scared and thinking, 'My God, how am I going to go on?" she said.

Cao's home video diary recorded the day she heard some big news about her brain tumors from radiation oncologist Dr. David Larson, telling her there were no new tumors.

Cao appeared in "The Bonesetter's Daughter" and has had to stop her career. But her cancer has not stopped her from singing. She sang for the world conference on lung cancer in San Francisco and she was chosen to sing the national anthem at The President's Cup golf tournament in the city.

She will be singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation fundraiser. She wants to help Bonnie and Tony Addario of San Carlos raise awareness about lung cancer. Bonnie is a 5-year survivor.

Cao will be joined by actress Kathryn Joosten from ABC's "Desperate Housewives" who survived her second bout with lung cancer.

"My first response with the cancer was to hide. After I had the surgery and I was convinced that I no longer had any cancer, I decided to go public with it," said Joosten.

Cao hopes her singing will help survivors find their own rainbow.

The Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation event is this Saturday night. For more information, visit www.lungcancerfoundation.org.


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