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The wait begins


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Hi friends,

My dad (former smoker) had been coughing for 2 weeks and went to the Dr this week. Xray and then CT scan shows a large mass in the upper lung. Pulmonologist says it's inoperable, the largest mass he's seen (he's been practicing for 6 years). In the past 2 days dad has been hoarse; turns out tumor is pressing on his windpipe.  Biopsy is scheduled for 7/16 which seems like an eternity from now. Apparently dad has to go off his blood thinners and get a covid test and maybe some other tests before the biopsy. Then we need to wait maybe 5 more days to see the oncologist.

I am trying not to freak out but my grandmother (a heavier smoker who never quit) got lung cancer in 1991 and my memory isn't great but I do remember that the cancer was so advanced that chemo wasn't an option and she was gone within a month or two. So to me 2 weeks sounds like a terrible wait. Especially because at this point we don't know if it's small cell or non small cell. I don't know if that's something the pulmonologist could guess at given my dad's symptoms. The pulmonologist did say it was a fast growing cancer. Which does seem to be the case if dad went from zero to hoarse in 2 days. I feel like if I knew which type of cancer it was I could start doing research and feel in control even a little bit. 

My family is obviously very worried and trying to figure out how to get through the next 2 weeks without a diagnosis. Especially with what we went through with my grandmother.

Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Hi Laura,

First of all, I’m very sorry to hear about your Dad’s diagnosis.  There’s a saying here in this Forum, the waiting is the hardest part.  When we hear the word cancer, action Jackson kicks instincts kick in yet the medical community runs at a glacial pace (even before the pandemic). 

Lung cancer today is rarely considered an emergency. I know how ridiculous that sounds.  In reality, lung cancer has come a long way since 1991.  In fact, there have been more treatment advances in the last five years than in the last fifty, even for small cell lung cancer.  Initially my prognosis was six to twelve months, but due to a new targeted therapy, doing well nearly two years later.  

While this is counterintuitive, it’s best to hold off any any internet research about lung cancer. Most of it is really outdated with any study older than six months already being designated as old news.  There are great resources here in Lungevity and YouTube sessions from the Go2Foundation.  There are several videos on biopsy and something called biomarkers which determines the sub type of cancer. 

As you alluded, it’s impossible to know what your Dad has until the biopsy and biomarker tests have been completed.  A biopsy in normal circumstances takes about 48 hours (in COVID areas it’s up to 5-7 days).  The biomarker tests are done by a specialty lab and take 7-10 days.  Aka more waiting.  

Talking was pretty difficult for me in the beginning of all of this so I got a memo pad and wrote things down as a primary form of communication for a while. 

From the sounds of what you’ve reported it appears as if things are on track.  Let us know what questions you have so we can jump in.  

Welcome to the group. 


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