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I don’t have a day by date chronicle of my events. I’ll do the best I can to get things in order though…

Let’s say it all started about 1979. It was the coolest thing happening and I was one cool dude. Winston was the brand. Guys smoked the king size ones. The gals smoked the 100s…

Fast forward 27 years…

You can’t smoke in public anymore. You can’t even smoke in your own office, unless of course, your office is the facility’s designated smoking area. More and more even that isn’t available. More often than not, you’re pushed to smoke in some outside designated smoking area. You can’t smoke anywhere on any hospital property anymore. (That’s tough on a paramedic trying to get a puff between patients.) With the successful campaigns against exposing your children to second hand smoke, a man can’t even smoke in his own home anymore without feeling guilty about what he might be triggering in his grandbabies bodies. Oh, and the prices of tobacco now. OMG, I guess the government is trying to get rich off of smokers. (Past view) (I’m awake now). So the bottom line is that it’s quite inconvenient to be a smoker in the early 21st century. So in October of 2006, ( I used to know the exact date), my wife and I went and had this laser treatment for smoking cessation. Now, I’ll be honest, the dang thing didn’t do anything for me. However, I had pretty much made up my mind that being a smoker had become a real hassle for me and the $500.00 that I spent for the two of us was in the back of my mind as wasted if I picked up another smoke. So, at 3:10 PM on that day I put out my last cigarette and got this cute little laser thing pointed all over my body.

During those 27 years there was an important discovery. When I was 23 my right lung spontaneously collapsed. This occurrence revealed that I had a congenital defect with my lungs in the formation of blebs. Something like blisters and there were many on my lungs. Add to that some occasional dry pleurisy and there’s opportunity to tear these blebs open, allowing collapse or “spontaneous pneumothorax”. About a year after the first one, I had a second. The second time it was my left lung. I never stopped smoking through those events, except the short stays in the hospital.

In March 2007, while on the rig one day, it dawned on me that every time I ate something sweet, I felt an ache in my left posterior lower ribs. Being a paramedic, I’m familiar with anatomy and I’m thinking this is too high to be a kidney so perhaps it’s my stomach. Maybe a stomach ulcer. I eat candy a few more times and each time I get the same ache. I convince myself I need to fix this “ulcer”. Again, being a paramedic and having served a rural community for many years I was very close to the doctors in the area. (Note: nowadays I work offshore on drilling rigs) Anyway, I go in and tell Dr. Namde Nwabuazie that I need him to prescribe me that ulcer curing antibiotic. I figure to just go ahead and get this thing cured up. “Not so fast”, he said, and he had me get a chest x-ray. There it was. Of course it wasn’t conclusive at that point but we all knew with reasonable certainty that the bright spot in my upper right lobe was real bad. My lack of fever or anything else pretty well ruled out an infection…

It took a few weeks to learn the extent of what was going on. There was the PET scan, the discovery of a secondary tumor on my left adrenal gland, the discussions about how dangerous the blebs would make any surgery, the biopsy of the adrenal gland, choosing facilities and doctors, financial issues, etc, etc. There wasn’t much to be hopeful about. Surgery was simply not an option. To start with, the cancer was already metastasized to the adrenal gland. The kicker was that the primary tumor was surrounded by these blebs and it was nestled in the bronchial bifurcation of the main stem bronchus with the upper lobe bronchus. Identified as Adenocarcinoma, chemotherapy alone, would not be enough. Perhaps focused radiation would do the trick.

During this same time, I made up my mind early on that I needed to prepare myself and my family spiritually for the ordeal ahead and whatever outcome was to be. I talked to my preacher. I was baptized. I made good my relationship with God. Though my religion is Baptist, I accepted all prayer of Christian faith, including a neighbor’s prayer with laying of hands on me and my brother’s and stepmother’s church’s prayers with laying of their hands on me. I do not discredit these prayers or any others I received, for I felt the rewards of answered prayers throughout my experience and continue to do so now. As I made right my relationship with God, I accepted whatever outcome He wished. I still accept whatever outcome awaits me in the future and only hope that I serve Him properly as I live out His plan.

There are a number of ways to focus radiation and more are being developed all the while. One method, not specifically promoted for lung cancer but found beneficial in liver cancer is RFA or (Radio-Frequency Ablation). What this amounts to is the insertion of a probe into the tumor and sort of microwaving it. At first, this was ruled out as too risky for my primary tumor because of the blebs and my history with spontaneous pneumothorax occurrences. However, it seemed like a good idea for the adrenal gland. All the doctors were in agreement on the need to hit the cancer with some chemotherapy first, no matter what other modalities might be used. So we started some treatments. One thing I decided early on was that if I had any chance at all of surviving, my doctors needed to make use of my youth and general good health and treat the cancer with all the aggressiveness they dared, and I told them this at every stage of the game. That has been, and continues to be the pace.

My chemotherapy started with Gemzar, Taxol, Cisplatin, and Avastin. I did this for three full rounds and then healed up a couple of weeks in preparation for the RFA of the left adrenal gland.

You know? I know that it was a horrible experience. I remember that I laid in bed and didn’t want to move for a couple of days after each treatment. But I do not specifically remember the pain. I do not specifically remember the sickness and I never once vomited. Every prayer was answered for me. Every prayer continues to be answered for me.

Well, the time came for the RFA and during consultation, the doctor to do the RFA casually mentions inserting the probe into the right upper lobe of my lung. I said well, now I understood that would be too dangerous and that we were going to do the RFA on the adrenal gland. He double checked all his stuff and said, No, we’re going to RFA the lung tumor and he went further to say that he felt it wouldn’t be a problem.

It was a problem…

He did the RFA and was removing the probe when he tore a huge hole in my right upper lung lobe. The bad thing was that at first, he stuck a chest tube in me without verifying that it was doing any good and sent me to a room. I woke up in the middle of the night and demanded attention because I couldn’t breath.

They put two chest tubes but it wasn’t enough. The hole in my lungs was too large. There was a steady flow of air through my mouth and nose, through the lung and hole, out the two chest tubes and the only thing keeping me alive was my left lung and the grace of God. They kept me very sedated during the next 24 hours and during that time they convinced my wife that the best she could do for me was to sign the DNR papers to let me go when I finally succumbed to this horrible situation. My girl came through for me, though. She said she would do it, but y’all (the doctors), have to wake him up so he’s in his right mind and y’all tell him what’s going on and what he says is what goes.

So here’s how I saw it. I’ve got cancer in this right upper lobe. It also has an infection in it, (discovered on x-ray a few days before this). Now it’s got a hole in it. Surgery was a “risk” before all this. A risk for what? For this. Well, now it’s happened. How much more harm could surgery do? So open me up and cut the dang lobe out and drop it in a bucket, already.

So that’s what they did.

Many say I should have sued. I did sit down with that doctor that did the RFA and tell him I didn’t feel comfortable paying him for a service and a malpractice that nearly killed me. He must have felt like I was right because he never sent me a bill.

But you know what? Without things happening exactly as they did, I don’t know that I would be cancer free right now. In fact, it all may have been part of God’s plan. I continue to wonder if that doctor wasn’t part of the plan. Perhaps God needed him to learn from his mistakes with me before he encountered some future patient. I don’t know…

Well, moving on, the doctors that opened me up and removed my upper right lobe did a very good job and they were thorough in removing the cancerous tissue as well. I’m grateful to them. It was a risky job to take on but they did it well. So…

Now that the primary tumor had been removed, the “risk” was past and the only thing left was the secondary tumor on my left adrenal gland. We studied the prospect of radiating it. The radiation oncologist was very plain with me, in that the radiation would be something to decrease my quality of life for a while and the truth of my situation was that I would likely face this cancer again one day. It took him studying my case for several minutes before he snapped. Hey, I had my primary tumor surgically removed? But my situation wasn’t good for surgery, so what the heck happened. By the time we finished talking we both realized that by accident, we now had a unique opportunity to finish by surgery what was initially inoperative. So I went back to my primary oncologist with this suggestion that we remove the left adrenal gland by surgery. He gave me one of those sideways looks like a puppy that is hearing a high pitched noise and said, “We could.”

So we did.

The biggest worry was that I was not going to be able to handle the second surgery so soon after the first, so he made me wait until he was satisfied I wasn’t using all my energy for healing in my chest and he hooked me up with a good general surgeon. The chemotherapy had really done a number on the adrenal tumor as well and it took them over two hours to find it. Before going in to surgery, I made my surgeon promise only that he would take whatever time necessary to make sure he removed all cancerous tissue. He held to his word for me and even though it did take over two hours to find it, they kept after it and got it all. It took a while to get over all that gas in my abdomen but certainly worth it in the long haul.

Once I healed up from that, my oncologist wanted to do some more chemotherapy. My only real issue with that was that we had used up my arm veins with previous therapies. So I got my general surgeon to plant me one of them mediports in my left subclavian vein. My first treatment after that was before I was completely healed so I skipped that Avastin but as soon as I healed up we included it in my treatments and have had it going on ever since. Mainly my therapy after surgeries was Taxotere. I did that for three rounds. The latter ones included Avastin. As soon as I healed well enough from those treatments I started on the Tarceva. I continue to get the Avastin every three weeks. I will run a alternating schedule now that I’m back working two weeks on and two weeks off, getting a one-week dose then a three week dose. I continue to take Tarceva 150mg every day but I have had stop temporarily twice, once for three days and once for six to allow sores in my mouth to heal.

Throughout all treatments there have been numerous side effects, skin rashes, diarrhea, nausea, hair loss, bone pain, back pain (From neulasta), nose bleeds, hyper mucosa (nose and eyes), fingernails & toenails rotted off, and the list goes on. The thing is that the oncology folks have been at my disposal the whole time. Every time a problem occurs, I call them and they give me a solution. Every problem has been manageable. Especially when the alternative is considered, I suck it up and go on. That said, my blessing started with my youth and general good health. Without having such a good starting point, I may not have survived some of the stages of the past 15 months or I might not have been able to manage the side effects of some of the treatments. I have really been blessed at every turn.

The last PET scan I took wasn’t really clear because of all the healing tissue at the points where the tumors had been surgically removed. So I can’t really claim to have a clear PET scan. However, we didn’t find anything unexpected in the previous PET scan. The indicator that makes me claim to be cancer free is my CEA. Though it is not standard practice to solely depend on CEA values with Adenocarcinoma in the lung as an indicator of remission, we are fairly confident in using it with me for this reason. When I was first diagnosed with cancer, my CEA was 287. After the first sets of chemotherapy and the first surgery, my CEA dropped to 70 something. The first CEA after the second surgery was 18. The next was around 5. The next and next were less than 1. The last two successive CEA values were completely undetectable. We will be doing a PET scan within the next month or so and I expect it to be clear, but we’ll see. If it is not clear, we’ll attack whatever shows up with the same or greater aggression than we’ve used up until this point.

I am Will Riddle


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Hey, Will, this is a remarkable story! You have lots of wisdom packed in here, and it's a great example of how knowledge, attitude, and the determination to be a full partner in one's own treatment can really pay off.

So how are you feeling right now? Planning to go back to work anytime soon?

You should put a link to this post in your signature block so anyone reading your other messages can find it easily. Click on Profile above, scroll down to the Signature block, paste in this link and anything else you'd like to say...

http://lungevity.org/l_community/viewto ... 141#360141

...scroll down further, ensure Always attach my signature is marked Yes, and click Submit at the very bottom.



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