A Lung Cancer Outlier

Editor’s Note: This piece was submitted by a contributing writer and does not represent the views of CURE Media Group.

GERD can cause lots of discomfort, and sometimes lead to a diagnosis much more serious, as I found out on April 6, 2016. I had chest pains for three days in a row and decided that I better get it checked out. After calling the VA Telcare line, I was advised to go to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center ER to rule out heart issues. I work at the same hospital, so it was a short trip.

After getting admitted, lots of blood work and other tests were completed. There was nothing abnormal with my heart, but the chest X-ray revealed a small shadow on my left lung. A CAT scan showed it to be a possible tumor. Further tests, which included a biopsy, confirmed the presence of a cancerous 3 cm growth. I have not mentioned the emotional side of all this. I am 61 years old and a lifetime non-tobacco user. According to one of the many doctors who visited me and my wife during the three days I was initially admitted, only a very small percentage of people diagnosed with lung cancer are lifetime non-tobacco users.

To say we were devastated would be quite the understatement. The doctors left the room and we cried in each other’s arms. We have two grown sons and six grandchildren. How do we tell them? We decided that a straightforward approach would be best. My oldest son was very upset. My youngest was very, very angry. Only the oldest grandchild was told. I left the hospital Friday, as one of my grandchildren had a birthday pool party at our house. I was readmitted on the following Monday and more tests and procedures followed for the next two days, including a PET scan plus other procedures to get more information. Thankfully, the cancer had not spread to my brain or any other areas outside my left lung. The tumor and two lymph nodes were affected. Staging determination was stage 3a lung cancer. All this was new to us and we were very scared. I went thru chemo at the VA hospital and radiation at the University of Florida Health Davis Cancer Center. The treatments started in early May and continued until June 24. I had a total of seven chemo treatments and 33 radiation treatments. It was an ordeal to say the least.

I am now eight weeks out of treatment and dealing with the side effects related to both. Stomach pain, swallowing pain, weakness, dizziness...etc. Hair loss was minimal, which I am grateful for. My next PET scan is Sept. 26, with follow-up oncologists appointments. If any reader prays, please include me and my family in your prayers. Thanks.