Anna H

Anna H., SC

In February 2021 I was diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer. I had been having abdominal pain throughout 2020 and went to my primary care doctor. She gave me a few choices on how to proceed to figure out why I was having this pain continuously. We decided on the GI route and I then went to see a GI doctor. He ran all of the tests possible for the next few months to help locate and determine the cause of this pain. With no answers as to why and no big issues being identified, he suggested one last test which was a CT scan with contrast. The scan caught just the bottom portion of my lungs and it showed a spot on my right lung. He told me everything looked great with my GI but was I aware I had a spot on my lung.  I had never been told I had a spot on my lungs much less had a chest X-ray for any reason previously. 

He immediately referred me to a pulmonologist. The pulmonologist was very proactive. My two little girls were 8 and 5 at the time, and I was so grateful he was attentive to my concerns. We watched the spot for 6 months and after another scan he recommended having it biopsied to see the make up of the spot. After the biopsy I got the call from him I never thought I'd hear. "You have lung cancer". I was a healthy 40 year old, had just completed a shetris, which is a women's mini triathlon months before, I never smoked, and was very active. I was in shock. My daughters 8th birthday was the next day. 

Knowing that I was devastated, the pulmonologist told me he'd walk across the hall to the surgeon's office and they'd be in touch as soon as possible. The surgeon's nurse called me 20 minutes later and invited me that afternoon to their office even though it was right before they closed. He sat with my husband and I for an hour discussing surgery and possible outcomes. He said it's just rare to find it at this stage, I was extremely lucky. Two weeks later I had a lobectomy and was referred to an oncologist. It all happened so fast.

After tumor analysis, chemo was recommended to prevent reoccurrence. I was assigned a nurse transition coordinator and she took me under her wing. She sent resources to me to use with my girls in addition to therapy referrals and support groups and even asked me to participate in the LUNGForce walk this past year. I completed chemo in July 2021 and the walk was in November. Participating in the walk was an emotional experience, being on the other end of this and now being monitored every 3 months with scans. It was a wonderful celebration and motivation to keep going and continue getting stronger after this last year.

Throughout this experience I have been so grateful for doctors and nurses who listened and being diagnosed so early is a testament to them. Without them being so proactive and listening to my persistence the cancer would still be sitting in there just waiting.  My passion now lies in research and advocacy, how does a 40 year old have stage 1 lung cancer? I also have a passion for supporting others in their cancer journey because I've had such a force surrounding me as my family and I tackled this diagnosis.  Hopefully my story encourages others to listen to their body, talk with their doctors, and seek out the support they need to tackle a cancer diagnosis.

First Published: January 27, 2022

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