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LUNG FORCE Heroes

Tina C.

I'm Tina Castello, thank you so much for allowing me to share my story. I had been divorced for quite a while and found that I was getting lonely for companionship so my sister encouraged me to try online dating. What an adventure that was! It's true what they say, you have to "kiss" a lot of frogs before you find your prince!

I’m not sure if it was Devine Providence or Devine Intervention but in September 2010 at the age of 48, I met someone. He was a handsome 54-year-old Italian named Gerald. After a few dates we became inseparable and by Christmas we were engaged. After the first of the year, we began making wedding plans. In February 2011, while I was working out of town, I received some devastating news; my mother at the age of 67 was killed in a car accident. My handsome Italian held me together during that time and helped me through my grief.

The next month, my father was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. I moved from grieving for my mother straight to caring for my father. By the time we learned of his diagnosis my father was so ill that we went straight to hospice. One thing my father did tell me was that he wanted to see me married to Gerald before he died. So in June 2011 we had a beach wedding in Jacksonville Beach, Flordia.

My father died the next month; July, 2011. The first three years of our married life, Gerald and I got to enjoy some things that we were never able to do previously. We traveled to some exotic places and shared a common love for all things beach! We declared our home a "drama-free" zone to each of our families. Then one day, Gerald began coughing. It continued for about a week so finally I convinced him to go to urgent care to see if he had an infection, the flu or pneumonia. The doctor decided to do a chest x-ray.

When the doctor returned to the exam room after reading the x-ray results, the expression on her face told us everything. I remember Gerald stating that it looked as if she was talking to a "dead man". A large mass, right lobe, CT scan, pulmonologist; all these terms were uttered and became a filmy cloud floating around my head. Cancer? No way! Impossible! It can’t be! But it was.

Gerald endured a battery of tests, scans, biopsies and procedures resulting in a definitive diagnosis of stage 4 non-small cell lung adenocarcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes and liver. Surgery was not an options so Gerald underwent intensive chemotherapy.

For the first two years, Gerald responded well to treatment and his tumors shrank considerably. We both became advocates for smokefree environments and campaigned to have the city in which we lived to adopt a comprehensive smokefree ordinance.

However in May 2016 we received more devastating news. Gerald had tumors in his brain. Over the next 10 months, through tumor resection surgery and whole brain radiation my handsome Italian fought with all his might to beat this wicked disease but to no avail. On March 15, 2017, Gerald A. Castello died carrying my heart with him.

Lung cancer has claimed the lives of the two most important men in my life. This is how I fight. I have volunteered and served on the Leadership Board of the American Lung Association of Alabama for two years now. I will be a voice and fight for research, advocacy and awareness of this disease.

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