I Am the Face of Lung Cancer

By: Deena Cook, lung cancer survivor and advocate

In the fall of 2011 my husband had an appointment with our PCP and asked me to come along because I had been coughing for 10 days or so and he thought I should see the doctor. That appointment led to a chest x-ray then CT scans and PET scans.

In July 2012, after monitoring several nodules for months, it was decided to remove and biopsy the larger nodule that had changed in appearance. I went into surgery not knowing if I had cancer. I came out without a lower left lobe and a diagnosis of stage one adenocarcinoma. I recovered well, went back to work six weeks later and was told to come back in six months for a check-up. No follow-up treatment was required! Piece of cake! My husband and I were excited about our upcoming retirement at the end of the year and we anxiously awaited the arrival of our 7th grandbaby.  Life was wonderful!

Deena, her husband Roger and their seven grandchildren in July, 2013

Our retirement in January of 2013 was celebrated with my six month CT scan showing that a nodule in my upper left lobe had changed. The biopsy showed cancer again. My second surgery took place in April, nine months after my first surgery and four days after our newest granddaughter was baptized.

My second tumor was also stage one adenocarcinoma. A second primary tumor. The official term for my lung cancer diagnosis is Synchronous Multi-primary Lung Cancer.

My second lung cancer diagnosis woke me up. I started to research this disease and became proactive in my care. I am among only 15% of lung cancer patients who are diagnosed when the cancer is localized. It was found incidentally. From all that I have now learned about lung cancer, I KNOW how lucky I am.

I wanted to make sure that others wouldn’t have to be lucky to be diagnosed at early stage for lung cancer. I have become a Lung Cancer Activist.

It took time to get over the stigma associated with lung cancer. I take responsibility for “being cool” and smoking when I went off to college, but I quit in 1988. I did what our government told me to do, but I still have lung cancer.

I am committed to fighting the stigma; to insisting that our government fund lung cancer research proportionate with its public health impact; and to mandating that a portion of the billions of dollars collected each year from tobacco taxes be used for lung cancer research and patient healthcare.

I am the face of Lung Cancer and intend to stay that way for a long time! By the grace of God, a loving husband and a diligent PCP, we just celebrated another stable CT Scan! Wooo Hooo!