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About this blog

A blog by lung cancer survivor Tom Galli

Entries in this blog

We are Not Concrete

I just completed a most unusual intellectual assignment—evaluating molecular biology and pathobiology research grant applications.  When I learned of my assignment, I wondered how I’d make the academic stretch from civil engineer to biologist.  Sure, on a good day, I can spell pathobiology correctly without aid of a spell checker. Why would someone deliberately assign me to review molecular biology stuff?  I’d forgotten.  I was a lung cancer survivor and expert, not by education but by expe

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Voyage of Hope

I am writing this from the pool deck of a cruise ship while on a transatlantic sojourn. Our fourth transatlantic and our favorite form of vacation, we cross then pick several countries and explore. This year, after docking at Barcelona, we fly to Ireland and tour the wild and unpopulated western coast, then spend a long weekend in Edinburgh, and fly home. The cruise and the touring after is wonderful. The flight back is a nightmare because my incision scars throb in pain in a pressurized aircraf

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Uncertain Treatment Outcomes: A Baseball Model

Baseball is a game that requires patient players and fans. Like lung cancer treatment, there is a lot of waiting for something to happen. Also like lung cancer, the game is unpredictable. A single pitch can change the outcome of a game like a single cell can change the outcome of treatment. And like lung cancer, baseball has many uncertainties and these are defined by odds. The best hitters succeed a little better than one in three times; the best teams winning about six in ten games. Baseball p

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Twice A Veteran

I’m an armed forces veteran. Also, a late stage diagnosed lung cancer survivor veteran. A smoker, I once had little doubt that smoking caused my lung cancer. Yet almost everyone in my immediate family smoked and none developed the disease. Could the unique hazards of armed forces training and warfare played a role in my disease?  Looking back, early in my career were demolition projects involving World War II era structures that were filled with asbestos. On deployment, burn pits predominat

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Trekking The Green With Seventeen

Today I celebrate 17 years surviving lung cancer. COVID is a nightmare. But, I am celebrating nevertheless. Life after lung cancer is precious and most worthy of celebration. You might note I’ve run out of toes to paint. I do this to honor Phillip Berman, MD, a radiologist with Stage IV lung cancer, who was instrumental in my survival. Phil resolved to paint a toenail red for each year he survived “this madness.” He painted 5 before passing; I continue the tradition using LUNGevity Blue. My

Tis The Season

Today we pause to celebrate new life, life continued, and hope renewed.  For me this is a holy season but it has a much broader meaning, especially for those struggling with lung cancer. Christmas Day is a celebration of new life and a continuation of life. The new life is Christ while continuation is everyone alive.  Including especially, those who live with lung cancer. We have at first glance an insurmountable challenge: to live with a disease that consumes our body with cells made of our bod

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Thirteen Years; Thirteen Toes!

Today we celebrate 13 years of surviving NSCLC.  I'm borrowing three toes from Martha, my wife and caregiver extraordinaire, who deserves most of the credit for my continued life.  Martha did the heavy lifting during treatment, asking the right questions at the right time, and prodding my medical team with just the right touch.  By comparison, I was at wit's end during my nearly 4 years of continuous treatment.  Doctors McK (GP), H (Oncologist) and C (Thoracic Surgeon) also deserve a lion's shar

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Therapy Online?

The nature of the World Wide Web is the essence of its creators. We’ve made a conduit of ideas and information that chronicles every facet of human behavior and lots of non-human behavior. One can find a searchable version of the bible and then click to something that would be an embarrassing find in the bible. The Internet is encyclopedia, newspaper, entertainment, and abstraction all available with only one precondition, access. I was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer in 2004. The Int

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

The Smoking Gun

We often hear smoking gun used to describe the “ah ha” moment of a who done it.  I was unsure of the meaning and asked Siri.  My Apple genius defined it as “as piece of incontrovertible incriminating evidence.”  I know two things with high confidence: (i) there is a very strong correlation between smoking and lung cancer, and (ii) implying smoking as a cause adds to the self-induced stigma that smacks down research for my disease. So, how do we address the stigma without pointing the smokin

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

The Lung Cancer Conjecture

Start with any whole positive number. If it is even, divide it by 2; if odd, multiply by 3 and add 1. After a string of calculations applying the even-odd method, regardless of the starting number, the answer will always be 1.  Well maybe because all numbers have not yet been checked. But up to 10 raised to the fourteenth power have been. And that is a very big number! This mathematical oddity is called the Collatz Conjecture.  For example, here is the calculation string applying the even-o

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

The Down Low on Low Dose

The other day, in conversation with a newly minted medical school graduate, he told me low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) was dangerous. Dangerous! If LDCT is dangerous, what is late discovery of lung cancer? He nearly fainted when I told him I had perhaps more than 40 CT scans in my treatment history, telling me I was a candidate for radiation induced cancer. It didn’t seem to register that I was a candidate for extinction by lung cancer. We are told the only effective way of treating our

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

The Caregiver's Plight

Now, long after the commotion of active treatment, my wife and I often share recollections. Martha is my caregiver and for more than 3 years of near constant therapy she held the long thin line. In doing so, she had to confront my anxiety, discomfort and fear. These were variable; the constant foe was my general irascibility towards medical treatment. Now a 12-year survivor, we both laugh at some of my antics. But during treatment, there was high drama to deal with. It is not easy to watch

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

The Cadence of Scan Days

"Count-off...One, Two...Count-off...Three, Four...Bring it on down now...One, Two, Three, Four, One-Two...Three-Four!"  My life is filled with counting.  As a young soldier on the march, we counted cadence to stay in step.  The rhythm of the cadence was an elixir to the mile-upon-mile-upon-mile of forced march in full combat load.  They always scheduled the forced march on the hottest day, or the wettest day, or the coldest day of the year.  One memorable march was the day after a hurricane

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Thanksgiving

Today, in the United States, we celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving.  Our first president, George Washington, called for an official “day of public thanksgiving and prayer” in 1789 and although the Congress heartily agreed, the proclamation was lost in the bureaucratic press of politics.  It fell to Abraham Lincoln to rekindle the Thanksgiving Holiday shortly after the pivotal battle of our Civil War—Gettysburg in 1863.  Thus in the mist of warfare and uncertainty, a holiday dedicated to thank

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Targeting My Type With Chemicals

“Squamous cell cancer offers distinct therapeutic challenges by virtue of presentation in older patients, its physical location in the chest, pattern of metastasis and association with comorbidities that can compromise treatment delivery and exacerbate toxicity.” This quote is from the article Targeted Therapy for Advanced Squamous Cell Lung Cancer. When diagnosed, almost 13 years ago, I didn’t realize lung cancer had types. Pathologists visually classify lung cancer cells seen under a micr

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Survivor's Thanksgiving

Today, on our Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful that all in this photo, taken in November 2015, still survive. Stay the course.

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Social Security Disability by Disapproval

Perhaps you’ve heard?  The federal government is a large insurance business with a standing army.  Social Security is insurance — a specific kind of insurance called an annuity.  The insured and employer pay premiums every month to fund a defined benefit at a specified year (normally your federally mandated retirement year).  Everything is peachy-keen till a disability affects work because one has late stage lung cancer.  And, when a lung cancer survivor files for disability, allowed by law and

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Second Opinions

I had an interesting chat with my general practitioner over the Fourth of July holiday.  He’s a gentleman rancher with an abundance of tomatoes so I brokered an invite to his beautiful ranch to relieve him of his abundance. A social cup of coffee segued into a wide ranging conversation about medicine, ranching, politics, engineering and cancer treatment.  Doc has lots of opinions but they are founded on deep study and comparative analysis.  But, unlike most intelligent people, he rarely use

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Scanziety

Amazon Kindle Royalties Donated to LUNGevity.org During November:"I am not a doctor; indeed, I possess little medical knowledge.  I am, however, a very experienced and long-tenured lung cancer patient.  That gives me a unique perspective on the disease that kills more people­­—many times more—than any other type of cancer.  I do not intend to fill this story with statistics.  They are readily available from any number of reputable resources.  I have a firm belief, however, that lung cancer resea

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Royalties Donated to LUNGevity

I will donate all Scanziety Amazon Kindle Store sale royalties for the Month of November to LUNGevity.org to support much needed research. I wrote for the book for three reasons. First among them is “to raise a call to arms for funding lung cancer research.” Help me raise the call to arms! Read a book about surviving lung cancer and donate to sponsor research to find, fix and finish lung cancer. Stay the course. Get your copy of Scanziety here https://www.amazon.com/Scanziety-Retrospec

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Ring That Bell

There are advantages to receiving lung cancer treatments in small clinical settings.  Among them is everyone knows your name and treatment circumstances.  Scheduled for a CT scan with contrast yesterday, when I checked in I was routed to the infusion area to have my IV device installed.  Chris, the radiology technician who’s been scanning me for almost 14 years, is well aware of the difficulty of installing an IV.  So he passes me to the infusion nurses who yesterday managed to capture a vein, f

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Predicting Doom

I am not a statistics wizard; an engineer, I value the predictive power of statistics.  Indeed, if one can precisely control variables, a statistics-based prediction of the future is remarkably accurate.  The joy of predicting end strength for a new carbon-nanotube concrete mix design melts the heart of this engineer.  But, concrete is a thing with but 4 variables to control.  Human beings have perhaps millions of variables, thus predictions about people are vastly more complicated and inaccurat

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Olympic Surgery

The summer Olympics kindles an unpleasant anniversary.  I was in hospital recovering from a failed bronchopleural fistula surgery complicated by pulmonary embolism, further complicated by pneumonia, and then aspirational pneumonia. After surgical mayhem and ensuing coma, I settled into a nil per os or NPO recovery from a uncooperative epiglottis.  July, August, and early September of 2004 were clearly the worst days of my life.  The only joy was watching Katie Couric’s daytime TV Olympic broadca

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

Ninety Percent Mental

Summer has ended and baseball is in World Series mode.  I’m a long suffering Philadelphia Phillies fan — a Phanatic!  To have a lifelong fascination with a mediocre baseball club requires supreme dedication, unusual perseverance, and a strong conviction that tomorrow will be a far better day.  These attributes are prerequisites for facing a daunting lung cancer diagnosis and enduring the arduousness of treatment. Danny Ozark, once manager of the Phillies, took the team from perennial cellar

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

My Thoracic Surgeon Comes to Dinner

I've survived a lot of medical treatment. The most sophisticated and creative was while in the care of an extraordinarily gifted, courageous and talented surgeon. We invited him and his wife to dinner to renew our acquaintance and review the bidding.  The dinner was memorable. I could launch into the details of my 8 surgical procedures performed by this brilliant man but that story is told elsewhere. Of more interest to this community is what are the indicators of brilliance in a surgeon? 

Tom Galli

Tom Galli

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