I coughed up blood July 4, 2000, and being a respiratory therapist who had a chronic cough for about 3 months, I decided it must be tuberculosis that I had been exposed to. Wrong! Went to the doctor, had a chest x-ray and was told that a lump in the right bronchial area was either the aortic arch or a mass. Of course, it was the wrong side for the aorta, so I knew we had a major problem. Yes I was a smoker and had quit about one year prior. I had worked at the hospital where I was treated, so things went fairly quickly. I saw my oncologist, who, at that time, was the only lung cancer expert in Oregon. After all the testing was done she delivered the news that it was adenocarcinoma stage III B and it was inoperable. At that time she said the chances for survival were about 10%. That truly changed my perspective on life.
We discussed the SW Oncology Group Protocol which I would soon begin. Chemotherapy and radiation at the same time. All the horror stories of this treatment are true. I lost weight, lost all of my hair and was extremely tired. My family hopped onto the internet to learn all they could about lung cancer. After an extended time on the computer they were sure I was dead. Knowing deep down that I would survive this, and also knowing that what is published is the result of studies and scientific facts I ordered the computer turned off. Hope, determination, prayers and positive attitude do not play into those studies but it sure does in real life situations. I was fortunate enough to have a big dose of it all throughout my recovery as well as the expert treatment from my physician.
I had a scare in August of this year when my breathing took an extreme downturn and I ended up in the hospital having a rigid bronchoscopy to remove what was blocking my right bronchial tube. You could hear me wheezing throughout the office and home. It turned out to be just some tissue that had blocked my airway and when it was removed, the pathologist determined that it wasn't cancerous tissue. We definitely will keep an eye on the area for any recurrence.
I am now out 13 years without a recurrence. I still work and enjoy life. I have a chronic cough as a result of my adventure. The thought of a cigarette does not even enter my mind and I do not intend to die of lung cancer. Do not lose hope if lung cancer touches you.