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Through the Valley to the Mountain

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It was Wednesday, December 3, 1997. I called the clinic wanting an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. I was having pain in my right shoulder and chest. It had been going on for a while. I knew it was from moving back to Minnesota, all that packing and unpacking. I was to start work the 15th; I figured I should get a muscle relaxer or something so I would be in good shape. They wanted me to come in to urgent care because of the “chest pain”. The doctor said he wanted an x-ray and some blood work. I asked him if he would also check my thyroid since I had lost weight and recently had palpitations. He said he would order that blood work also. I went off to x-ray and there they wanted more and more views. After the lab I went back to urgent care. I had been there all afternoon. The doctor came in and said, “ I am sorry to tell you, but you have lung cancer. I have set up an appointment with Dr. Brown for this Friday. “

I left the clinic in tears for I knew that pain was not an early sign of lung cancer (It was  Stage 3 B). I had to talk to myself trying to calm myself down for I was driving home! I called my husband when I got there and was so upset I couldn’t get it out, he said he would be right home.

I saw Dr Brown two days later and there he told me of the many appointments that he had set up for me. My next was for Monday the 8th with a pulmonologist to do a CT guided Needle biopsy. I next had a Thyroid uptake and Scan. On the 11th I got the pathology, they said Squamous or possible Adenocarcinoma Non Small Cell. On the 12th I had a Bone Scan and then saw Dr Duane an Onocologist. He said I had a Pancoast Tumor. He wanted me to have radiation and chemo , for it would make the radiation work better. Next Dr I met was Dr Haselow in radiation. In between I went to the dentist to make sure my mouth was in good shape for chemo. Next appointment was with Dr Dyrud a thoracic surgeon. Back to the thyroid problem I saw Dr Kendall. Let us not forget I also squeezed in Pulmonary Function Tests. December 22 my treatment started radiation then Cistplatin and VP 16. I also got in touch with John a phone buddy. He was great and he also was a 10 year Pancoast Tumor survivor. He gave me hope. Yes I had treatment for the next 6 weeks right through the holidays. On Feb 17 I was admitted to the hospital to have my right upper lung removed. A few weeks later I began my second round of chemo , as originally planned. The last week I began falling down. I told Dr Duane my next appointment . He right away said it was the Cisplatin, I shouldn’t have any more. Another thing I noticed was I couldn’t turn and reach for things. My shoulder had frozen but several visits to Physical Therapy helped that. I was still having some problems with my chest incision site too. I like many needed antidepresents and searched for help, support. I did a program called “ RENEW” . It was helpful but no one had lung cancer there. I did a 12 step program for nicotine addicts and a women there told me of a lung cancer support group that had just started a United Hospital in St. Paul. I went. I met a great gal there who was a survivor, Connie. She was the moderator of the group. In May I had finally started the job that I had planned to start the previous December. It seemed every week or two I met someone there being diagnosed or treated for lung cancer. I just hope that I can offer someone the support that helped me get through that stressful difficult time. People that prayed for me, gave me rides to treatment, called and listened, sent cards and flowers and robes etc. I have become so rich in so many ways from this experience. I have met so many wonderful people, participated in Connies 2 events at the capital, one event here in my city hall, held an event in my hospital, went to state court to get MPAAT to spend the tobacco settlement on victims of tobacco instead on themselves. Connie told me of this board. Now I have met nearly 1200 more wonderful people! Lung Cancer is a deep “ valley” and I have been through this valley and now love the view from the mountain. Later I Lost my husband Jay to Lung Cancer July 23, 2013. 

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