Hi my name is Terry Gillespie.
I am a 13-year lung cancer survivor. I started my lung-cancer journey back in October 2003.
In the fall, I am prone to sinus infections, so as usual I got one. It just so happened this time that I let it go a little longer because I had just lost my job and had no insurance.
When it got so bad and I coughed so hard that I had a little blood in my sputum, I called the doctor and made an appointment.
My doctor prescribed the usual antibiotics, and when I mentioned that this sinus infection was worse than normal, and that I must have hurt my throat coughing because I saw a little amount of blood. She said that she was concerned that I may have pneumonia or TB, so decided to run tests. That was when my world turned upside down.
At that time, there was very little information about lung cancer treatments and very grim survival rates. I had very little support. After my biopsy, it was confirmed that it was cancer. I told the doctors that I did not want to know what they thought my end date would be. I was going to die at the ripe old age of 80, in my sleep. So on we went with the treatment with no mention of a termination date.
I had my left lung removed, and then I had radiation and chemotherapy. I was bald and beautiful. I also had some pretty bad side effects. During surgery, my surgeon accidentally hit my right vocal chord and I was without a voice for two years. Let me tell you, I can now hit my target directly when I throw things to get attention!
I have permanent sciatica on my left side.
I am one of the lucky lung cancer survivors and I have not had a recurrence.
People tell me that I look great for having lung cancer. It makes me wonder . . . What do people think that cancer survivors look like?
The reality is that many lung cancer patients are not so lucky.
I chose to be an advocate for lung cancer awareness as soon as I physically and mentally was able. I decided that I can help make a difference. My motto was “Nobody Deserves to Die from Lung Cancer.” I still believe that today. We have to do whatever we can to raise awareness, to educate people that this is NOT only a smoker’s disease, and to raise money for research to help eliminate lung cancer.
(Terry, right, pictured with fellow survivor and friend Tommieanne Bolden, at National HOPE Summit)