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Thankful for Early Detection / by Jan Gibson


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Thankful for Early Detection

March 1st, 2013 - by Jan Gibson

http://blog.lungevity.org/2013/03/01/th ... detection/

On March 24, 2005, at 46 years old, I was diagnosed with Non-Small Cell Adenocarcinoma Lung Cancer. There were no symptoms. Because of chest pain on my right side, I went to the emergency room on Sunday, February 20th. I was concerned about my heart. Heart disease runs in my family, and although I am very physically active, my sister had a heart attack when she was 47. I never found out what was causing my chest pains that day, but I did find out that I had a mass on my left lung. How could I have lung cancer? I don’t smoke. I never knew people could get lung cancer if they didn’t smoke.

My cousin and friend Kathi, age 46, had passed away just 2 years earlier from Small Cell Lung Cancer. This couldn’t be happening to me. How was I going to tell my children? They had just seen this same disease kill my cousin. How could I explain that mine was different? This was the beginning of a new life for me. After many tests over the next month, which included Chest X-Rays, CT scans, PET scans, Needle Guided Lung Biopsy, and a Bronchoscopy/Mediastinoscopy, it was determined that the cancer seemed to be contained within the one lung and had not spread to any lymph nodes.

On April 20, 2005 a lobectomy was performed at University of Maryland Medical Center. I had the upper lobe of my left lung removed. This was the most emotional day of my life. I wrote both of my daughter’s goodbye letters, just in case. I had a wonderful surgeon who was able to perform the lobectomy using a procedure called VATS (Video assisted thoracic surgery). The recovery was much easier because of this newer procedure. I was back at the gym in 2 weeks, walking on the treadmill and using the elliptical machines. Four weeks later, with CT scan in hand, I went back to the surgeon and he said that everything looked good. They did not recommend chemotherapy at this time. I was staged at a 1A, and was told that the benefit of chemo was not worth the risk for my stage of cancer.

I am so thankful that I caught it early, and they were able to do the VATS surgery to get it out of there. The doctor says that I am cancer free now. We never did find out why I was having chest pains on my right side that day, it had absolutely nothing to do with the cancer. The pains went away the next day, and they have never been back again.

Now, I’ve never been a religious person, but I have to say, someone was trying to tell me something. Had I not gone to the ER that day, who knows when my lung cancer would have been detected?

There needs to be more funding into the early detection of lung cancer so that more people can survive this disease.

I just feel so very fortunate that my cancer was accidentally detected early and I was able to be “cured”. I want everyone else to have the chance at early detection. It’s time to treat lung cancer with the same urgency that all other major cancers receive. I have learned so much since being diagnosed with lung cancer. I learned that lung cancer is a horrible disease that is underfunded and has a stigma attached. I learned just how much my husband, my mother, my sister and my children really love me. They were my rocks.

I can’t even begin to describe what it has meant to have my LUNGevity “LCSC friends” to talk to. They are the only ones that truly understand. I joined the LUNGevity Lung Cancer Support Community message boards 6 days before my lobectomy in 2005!

I’ve been cancer free for 8 years now. I volunteer in my community. I’ve participated in cancer events and I am a volunteer LUNGevity LifeLine Support Mentor to those who are newly diagnosed.

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