Celia Ruiz Tomlinson aka celpeggy aka poksa
When Celia moved to the United States from the Philippines in 1968 with little more than a civil engineering degree and $300 in her pocket, she was told she’d never make it as an engineer. At the time, engineering was a male-dominated profession. But her persistence paved the way — Celia became the first registered Asian professional engineer in New Mexico. In 1983 she founded her own engineering firm, RHOMBUS P.A. Inc., with $2000, rented surveying equipment, and two laborers plucked from the unemployment line. The company grew into a full-service engineering and environmental consulting firm that provided services in states including NM, TX, AZ, UT, LA, WY, OR, WA, CO, AR, and the Indian Reservations. She received National Entrepreneurial Leadership Awards in NY and SF. As President and CEO, Celia ran the company for 25 years until its sale. She is the author of the book “Don’t Ever Tell Me YOU CAN’T,” which chronicles how she transcended absolute poverty and gender and racial discrimination to achieve success. She retired in 2008. She is a professional motivational speaker.
In 2012, Celia had a cough that didn’t seem to go away. A lung x-ray at a routine physical showed a “milky way” image. After going through numerous tests, she eventually received the diagnosis: adenocarcinoma Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. Without treatment, the doctor told her she had only eight months to live. True to character, after her initial shock, Celia responded to the daunting challenge with aplomb. Now a five-year cancer survivor, she writes this blog. She was a guest blogger at the University of Colorado Cancerblogs.
Celia is in her second widowhood, has a son and a grandson.
I have always lived clean, eaten healthy, practiced yoga, walked miles, then boom! Lung X-ray showed snowy image – not a pretty picture. I went through CTscan, PETscan, MRI, etc. A 30mm-mass was found at the bottom of the left lung and smaller (less than 5mm) nodules too many to count throughout the lungs. A biopsy declared the 30mm nodule as “cancer.” Fortunately, there was no lymph node involvement and no metastases outside the lungs. After passing a Stress Test and a Breathing Test, a VATS surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor. During the procedure, the surgeon determined that one of the smaller nodules was cancerous. He discontinued the operation and sewed me up, declaring there is no sense in removing one cancerous mass when there are other cancerous nodules to be dealt with. Literally an open-and-shut case. That was in August, 2012. Having the EGFR mutation, I was immediately put on Tarceva. In 100 days, Tarceva devoured 81% of the tumor. I stopped taking Tarceva after 20 months and started participating in the CO-1686 clinical trials. The CO-1686 drug kept the cancerous tumor stable, or perhaps just a scarred tissue for a record nearly three years. I was even flown as a VIP (very important patient!) to speak at FDA near Washington DC and convince the power-that-be to give the drug an accelerated approval. My impassioned plea failed. Consequently, the manufacturer abandoned the clinical trial to focus the research funds on another more promising drug. I am currently on Tagrisso, the once competitor drug of CO-1686. I am asymptomatic and living normally just like before the diagnosis.