I have survived lung cancer for eight years.
I owe my life to my best friend, Susan. Susan fell off her patio in the summer of 2002. She broke her arm near the shoulder. When she went to the emergency room, x-rays were taken, and a shadow was found on her lung. She was later diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.
Six months later I had an occasional cough. I wouldn’t have given this much thought, but the realities of Susan’s struggle were fresh. The lesson learned was recent. So, after much nagging from my husband, I decided to appease him and gain peace of mind. I went to the doctor and told her my friend’s story. She ordered a chest x-ray which showed a shadow. After further tests, and a CT scan I was diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer.
I was lucky. My cancer was operable. I stand here because of earlier detection. My friend, Susan was my best support. Fortunately, we had her for two years after her diagnosis. We walked together early each morning, rain, snow or shine, for over thirty years and talked about everything. She gave me inspiration and hope. Our relationship is one that can never be replaced. It is now seven years later, and I still think of her frequently.
You think this is a smoker’s disease? Well, that is surely a reason why some people get lung cancer. But Susan and I were both never smokers. My father also died from lung cancer, he too was a never smoker. He died when I was only 18, leaving me to support both my mother and myself.
My diagnosis was hard to accept. When I was told that I should have a lobectomy, the removal of my cancerous lobe, I was thinking outpatient surgery. The length of my hospital stay was four days at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In order for me to have the surgery I had to have MRI’s on four different body parts and a bronchoscopy on the operating table prior to surgery. If any of these tests showed that the lung cancer had spread beyond the lobe, the surgery would have been cancelled.
A lot was riding on those four MRI’s – from both the results and the timing. Would I be able to have the surgery? The surgery was my best hope, considered the gold standard in care. Since I did them in Albany, I also had to worry if they would make it to Boston on time.
You can probably guess the outcome, the MRI’s did arrive on time! Since the bronchoscopy was done after I was sedated for the surgery, I had to wait till I came out of the anesthesia to find out that the cancerous lobe was actually removed.
When I woke up, I had tubes sticking out from various parts of my body. It was not easy to accept. The surgery required them to spread my ribs, this has caused the ribs to reposition themselves a bit. Thankfully, medicine has advanced and now video assisted thoracic surgery is the norm. Following surgery, I had adjuvant radiation and chemotherapy.
Those were difficult days, but I lived!
I don’t ever forget I had lung cancer. Lung Cancer Alliance provides hope for the future. It is dedicated to supporting patients and their families, while raising national awareness and securing multiple millions in public health research dollars. My personal goal is to help LCA in its work. There is a reason I lived!