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I've Beat the Odds Staged III B

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Well, my long awaited storie starts many moons ago. :)

I am no stranger to lung cancer, for I have lost my Father (1970 at the age of 54) my Mother (1987 at the age of 66), my Sister (1988 at the age of 43), along with two uncle's and a Grandfather all were lost to lung cancer.

My name is Connie Berchem and I am now 57 years of age and darn proud of it. I was 43 years old when my nightmare journey began.

My journey started back on April 26, 1995 when I went in for my yearly checkup with my primary doctor. During my checkup's my doctor always insisted I get a routine chest x-ray because of my family history. Well, low and behold I got my chest x-ray and it showed a mass in my left lung.

From there my journey began. Dr Connelly sent me for a CT scan. Oh yes, just the beginning of all the new things I would learn in this new life I was thrown into.

I then had to go see what was called a Pulmonoligist, (who-ever that was)?! He looked at my Ct Scan and said I needed to see a Thorascic Surgeon.(yet another new who-ever this is added to my life)

After meeting with Dr. Thomas VonRuden (Thoracic Surgeon) he indicated to me, he would need to do a surgical biopsy. (what ever that was?) On May 10, 1995 I entered the hospital to do a outpatient procedure that they said I would be home in my bed that night after they were done. (WRONG)! I ended up staying an extra day! He entered in my upper left chest area right below the left shoulder. Well, druing this procedure, they removed several lymph nodes and my surgeon said, "None of them had any cancer, but most of them looked very bad"! (Whatever that means)! He said he was unable to get anything good to indicate what this could be and that the margins all appeared clear that he did reach.

In June of 1995 I met with my Pulm. Doc (Dr Kamman) and he did a Bronchoscope on me. Low and behold he was unable to reach the mass in my left lung. The mass was down to low.

So, in July of 1995 the last effort was what they called a Guided Needle Biopsy. Well, this is the one they use a CT scan to guide the needle into the lung area, blah blah blah. Low and Behold, the doctor's said after several try's "I got it"! Hip Hip HOORAY!! That bugger was painful. But, I made it through each one of these procedures and we found the little bugger.

Dx.s Adneocarcinoma Lung Cancer is what came back from the Pathologist.

Well, now it's back to the Surgeon and chat with him to what to do next.

Well, I met with him on a Friday and he wanted me in the hospital on that following Monday. Well, easy for him to say, they were booked up. So, I went in on Tuesday instead.

July 25th, 1995 I walked into United Hospital with my husband, daughter, son, son-in-law, Uncle, Aunt, Nephew, Niece and Three wonderful Friends.

My Surgeon came into the prep room and held my hand. He looked at me and said, "When you come to after surgery, and I tell you I took your entire left lung, I want you to know that's GOOD NEWS"! Hummmm! So, I'm thinking, should we maybe have a chat about this, but he didn't seem to care much about what I wanted to chat about, he assure me I was going to be just fine.

Well, 9 hours later, I came too and he said, "I took your entire left lung" And BOY did I remember what he said! My eye's opened and he looked at me and smiled! My entire family and friends were all standing in the recovery room looking at me. My daughter and son were holding my hands, and my husband was standing rubbing my forehead. Everyone was smiling from ear to ear. And then the lights went out and I went nighty night for a little while again.

My recovery was 5 days in the hospital. I remember telling my Surgeon that I might not want to go home after this surgery all to soon, and he laughed and said, "Oh we'll see, you'll be wanting to go home after the 4th day"! HA HA HA I thought, 4th day after you just took out my left lung?? What is this guy NUTS??? Well, I was ready to blow that pop stand the 5th day.

My surgery was a great success and I came through it in flying colors.

I was on oxygen for about 2 months total after surgery. I was off all pain meds within 2 to 3 months after surgery, and I started my Chemo and Radiation Treatments, in Sept of 1995.

September 2, 1995 I get yet two other doctors added to my list of new friends in my life. He was my Oncologist Dr. John Schwerkoske, and Dr. K. Farniok my Radiation Onc Doc. On September 9, 1995 I started Chemo and Radiation treatments.

I underwent 36 sessions of radiation treatments, with minor side effects.

Oh sure, I had the couldn't swallow problem for a couple of weeks, but it wasn't as bad as some have had.

I also did 4 sessions of chemo, Three days on and three weeks off. I did VP-16/Cisplatin as my combo rig. Again, I had very few side effect as well. I was very lucky.

My doctor's reports all said, I was handling my treatments with great success and at ease. I was doing remarkable!!!

After I completed my treatments, I started yet another new journey into my life. This was called the "Dreaded Checkup Journey" every Three months for the first Three years after treatments. :roll:

I went for Ct Scan's and Chest X-rays for the first three years. I then got moved to every SIX months for the next two years. And that brought Ct scan's every 6 months.

After I completed my 6 month checkup journey, I was moved to Once a Year! Ct scans only once a year.

Well, long story short........... :roll: I am now looking at becoming a 15 Year Lung Cancer Survivor. God Willing :D:D

During my 14+ year journey, I want you all to know that each and everyone of my wonderful doctor's is still in my life today and they are not only my doctor's but they have become my dear and wonderful friends. I have the GREATEST TEAM of DOC's and I'm GRATEFUL to each and everyone of them.

During my LC journey in 1998 I had asked my Pulm. -( Lee Kamman) if he knew of any Lung Cancer Support Groups I might be able to attend? Well, weeks passed and one day I got a phone call from Dr. Lee Kamman. He called to tell me he couldn't find an In Person Lung Cancer Support Group anywhere in the Twin City area for me to attend, but then he said something I never thought I would hear in my lifetime. He asked me if I would be interested in starting up the First Lung Cancer Support Group here in Minnesota? Welllllllllllll...........

On January 1999 Paula Klineshcmidt (ONC N) an myself, put our heads together and worked very hard to bring a Lung Cancer Support Group to Minnesota. I'm very proud to say, that our group is going strong and we have the most wonderful members in our group you would all love to meet and be a part of our lives and we would love to have you join if your near by. I have been blessed in more ways then one.

10 years ago, I bought my first computer and became a member of the ACOR Lung Onc Group. I also became a Volunteer for ALCASE, doing advacate work and being a phone buddy for them for 6 years.

During my time with ALCASE now known as (LCA Lung Cancer Allinace) I learned about LCSC Lung Cancer Support Community, although it was a different name at that time, but, I have been a part of LCSC for over 7 years. I was once a Board of Director for LCSC. I remember the early days of how we struggled to keep this board up and running and how so many wonderful people would send in donations to help us keep it up and running. (the old days). I also remember Katie kicking in her money and time as well as many of us did. Many of those wonderful folks aren't with us today. I also Volunteer my time to my In Person Lung Cacner Support Group at Regions Hospital in St. Paul., Minnesota. My pride and joy.

I have also Chaired Two Major Lung Cancer Awareness Events that were held here at the Minnesota State Capital, with the hard work and efforts of several of my Lung Cancer Support Group Members (Donna G being one of them) right here in Minnesota. We worked very along with and hard with ALCASE to bring Awareness to Lung Cancer issues and we have seen some changes being done for early detection for lung cancer. The NCI had some research money to see if CT scan's were better in dx.ing early detection for lung cancer. This research was being done at the U of Minn, and Abbott Northwest Hospital here in Minnesota. This research was to go until 2008. I like to think that our Events had a little boost in getting this research efforts into play here in Minnesota. There findings where CT's did NOT help to find early stage lung cancer, SO THEY SAY!!

I also was a volunteer for ACS, where I was part of the Road to Recovery program in my community. I drove Cancer patients (Road To Recovery) to and from there cancer treatments and doctor's appointments. I met the most wonderful people during this time. Again, I have been blessed.

I pray for all of us that some day we won't have to deal with lung cancer issues, and that one day there will be a cure for ALL cancers.

But for now, I am a VERY GRATEFUL 14+ YEAR Lung Cancer Survivor, and my wish is, one day I want to be just like my friends David P. and Just Rich, because they are 20 and 33 year Lung Cancer Surviors. HOW GREAT IS THAT?????

Love, Support & Hugs to All,

Connie Berchem

Date Dx.d, 7/21/1995, Age 43, Adenocarcinoma, Stage IIIB, had 3.4cm tumor and three cancerous lymph nodes.

7/25/1995 had Left Lung Removed along with several lymph nodes.

9/9/95 Started Chemo (VP-16/Cisplatin), & Radiation (36 treatments). Cancer Free.

8/11/2003 CT Scan found 4mm Nodule Right Upper Lung. Did PET scan & Nodule Lite up. Also found a Tumor in my Left Atrium (Heart)

8/21/03 Open Heart Sugery for Myxoma Tumor in Left Atrium. During heart surgery (3) surgeons checked 4mm nodule & agreed it did not appear to be cancerous. Will watch Nodule via CT scan every 4 months. Complications during surgery & had to close. Re-did Heart Surgery on 11/4/2003 to removed Myxoma Tumor in left Atrium. Surgery a success.

11/2004-CT & PET scan, nodule still there 6mm will continue to watch.

4/2005-CT, Nodule still there and has grown to 8mm will do another CT in 9/2005. Waiting & watching nodule.

9/2005 CT Nodule has shrunk to 5mm. Doctor's feel nodule could be scar tissue.

1/4/2006 Heart Myxoma Tumor Returned, Had it removed @ Mayo Clinic along with Double Bypass.

2/2006 Having Shortness of Breath problems.

4/2006 CT, nodule 5mm No Change.

10/2006 Anigogram/Angioplasty bypass graft was plugged 95%.

11/2006 CT scan no change in Nodule, still having SOB problems and can't find a reason to why. (SOB could be because of all surgeries.)

4/26/07 Results of CT scan shows I have another Noudule. Now I have two nodules, one is 6-7mm & the new one is about 3mm.

Still NED.

9/2007 CT shows 3 nodules all mm in size. First 2 have no change in them. New one is very small. Repeat CT in 6 months.

10/2007 Seeing New Cardiologist (U Of MN) for SOB and for Leak in Mitral Valve.

12/11/07 Still NED

12/19/07 Surgery to replace Mitral Valve & do a Double Bypass at the U of MN. Cause is Chemo & Radiation Treatments.

1/27/08 Mitral Valve Surgery & Double By Pass a success!.

5/7/08 CT (right lung) (nodules watch) two new nodules appeared on top of the three I have. Will watch via CT scans. Next CT Oct 2008

10/08 CT scan

I lost my father (1970) @ age 56 to NSCLC.

I lost my mother (1987) @ age 66 to SCLC

I lost my sister (1988) @ age 43 to NSCLC

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  • 4 years later...

Well, I am doing as well as I can be doing under the circumstances. I just had a Borhochsopy done about 4 weeks ago to see if these new nodules in my lung are cancer. The report came back saying they are NOT cancer at this time. No No No No cancer! :wink:

I've had some bumpy roads, but all concidered, I am doing well Thank for Your Asking. Moving much slower, but non the less, moving!



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  • 3 months later...

I just read about your journey and want to thank you for posting. I am so happy to see long term survivors like yourself.

I will be at 4 years in April, so I am so thankful for my health. I do have some nodules on both lungs now but Tarceva is working miracles.

Thanks again, would love to hear from others.

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  • 9 months later...
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