Local Mother Shares Story After Surprising Lung Cancer Diagnosis
(November 5, 2019) - CLEVELAND, Ohio
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Cleveland resident Sandy Harb had a normal life – she is married and has two young boys – until a year ago when a lung cancer diagnosis changed her life forever. During November for Lung Cancer Awareness Month, she is sharing her story to raise awareness of the disease and inspire others.
In the spring of 2018, Harb developed chills, a fever and felt weak, so she went to the urgent care clinic. The doctors diagnosed her with bronchitis and sent her home with antibiotics. However, she didn’t get better, so she went to the emergency room at the local hospital a few days later.
“Something felt wrong. I couldn’t breathe and I felt weak,” said Harb.
The doctors performed several tests and diagnosed Harb with pneumonia. Before sending her home, the doctor said something that shocked her.
“He said that I have a pneumonia on my right lower lobe and to follow up with my family doctor to make sure it's not cancer... Oh wait, I said, ‘did you say Cancer?!?!’ He said ‘yes, I'm not saying you have cancer, but I say that to all my pneumonia patients,’” she said.
With cancer on her mind, Harb diligently followed up with her doctor the following week. Over the next several months, she continued to go to follow up appointments for additional tests – an X-ray, CT scan, a bronchoscopy and others.
On December 3, a surgeon told Harb that she had lung cancer.
“My heart dropped I held to my chest and said ‘what? Cancer?’” she said. “My tears were flowing as I was rambling. How could this happen? I never smoked a day in my life, never did drugs, I waited 10 years to be a mom, I can't die. My boys need me and I need them. I'm young to have this!”
On December 13, Harb had 60% of her lungs removed. The tumor was only the size of a pea, however doctors had to take a significant amount because the tumor was sitting on two airways.
“After my surgery, that is when the depression hit me. I felt winded and I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I did respiratory therapy for 12 weeks. My therapist helped me out a lot. She was very inspiring and very encouraging.”
Today, Harb is back to her busy life with her husband and two children. She is sharing her story to raise awareness for lung cancer and to encourage people everywhere to listen to their bodies.
“I want to share my story to inspire someone. No one deserves this awful disease and no one should get it,” said Harb. “Always listen to your body, if you feel sick, go to the doctor. You are your first advocate for your body. Never ignore signs. Cancer is not always a death sentence. There is always hope.”
About the American Lung Association
The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit: Lung.org.
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