It was just a little cough that wouldn't go away... Never lasted long, but after a couple of months of this intermittent, but persistent cough, my wife told me I needed to get to the doctor and get it checked out before we went on our family vacation. On July 18, 2013, I saw my family doctor and explained the cough to him. He couldn't find anything wrong, prescribed me some antibiotics and, since I have asthma, he decided to go ahead and do a chest x-ray. We were on vacation when I received a call from his nurse telling me that he had seen something on the x-ray that needed a closer look and they had set an appointment for me to have a CT scan on August 7th.
I had the CT scan that morning and received a call that afternoon from a different doctor at the same family clinic. He explained that my regular doctor was on vacation, but he wanted to see me first thing in the morning. In fact, he set the appointment for 30 minutes before the clinic was even normally open. Not knowing what to expect, my wife and I went in for the conversation that would change everything.
"You have a mass in your upper right lung about the size of a ping-pong ball. I can't tell you for sure that you have cancer, but most likely, you have cancer."
His words were very matter of fact, but his tone was vigorous and upbeat.
"We're scheduling you for a CT needle biopsy. If it's cancer, we're going to kick it in the *ss and get rid of it."
With those words, we were off and running on a whirlwind month of tests, scans, consultations that ultimately led me to an operating room on Friday, September 6th, 2013, where they removed the upper lobe of my right lung and seven lymph nodes. My diagnosis was Stage 1B NSCLC Adenocarcinoma. The margins of the tumor were clean and the lymph nodes were negative. I did four rounds of adjuvant chemotherapy (Alimta and Carboplatin) that finished up on December 18th.
The healing was slow, but now, nearly seven months after the surgery, I'm feeling well and life is pretty much back to normal. My PET/CT scan in January showed a couple of hot spots that we are monitoring, but the radiologist and my oncologist both feel that they are reactive sites, still changing from the surgery, rather than any new cancer cells.
The biggest surprise from all of this, other than being told I had cancer, was learning all of the horrible statistics about lung cancer. Prior to my diagnosis, I associated lung cancer with smokers and had no idea about the disparity between the mortality rates and research funding when comparing lung cancer to other types that get more publicity. I had no idea that you could get lung cancer just from breathing, but here I was at 46 years old, never smoked, no family members that smoked, no radon gas in the home or office (yes, I tested both), no occupational exposure to known carcinogens, nothing that I could assign the blame to, and yet, I'm a lung cancer patient. CORRECTION - I'm a lung cancer survivor. I have been greatly blessed with the early diagnosis and successful treatment. Thanks to the grace of a loving God and my persistent wife, this was caught early and I fully expect to be around for a good long while.
I live in central Arkansas with my lovely wife and teenage son. I enjoy hunting, fishing, shooting, watching my son play baseball and playing with my granddaughters.