Denise L

Denise L., CA

'Saved By The Scan'. . . This was the billboard I glanced up at as I was stuck in traffic on my way home from work. As I sat there reading, it "teased" something called a low dose CT scan (who knew  there was such a thing?) used to detect early stage lung cancer.

I had been a smoker for over 35 years and at the time I saw the billboard, I'd been post cigarettes for approximately 9 months. Quitting smoking was perhaps the hardest thing  I'd ever done. I'd tried several times but to no avail.

Although I didn't act on it immediately, I noticed that billboard off and on for the next few months. I was scheduled for an annual physical and requested that my PCP authorize "this test I saw on this billboard." We talked about it and she didn't think I qualified and thus, wouldn't order it. I left but a few months later,  came down with a cold. As I was about to travel for a month, I went back to her for some cough suppressant and antibiotics. Once again, I mentioned the test. This time, she ordered it.

I took the test once I came back from vacation and things moved very quickly. See, I had no symptoms, no pain, no weight loss, no coughing up blood etc., but I did have a malignant tumor in my upper left lobe.

Original staging placed it as NSCLC and  a probable 2b-3A. I underwent an upper left lobectomy, removal of 17 lymph nodes and post pathology, it  was"downgraded" to Stage 1B. I underwent four rounds of chemotherapy. I had some factors which made me at a higher risk of recurrence which is why chemo was suggested. I also qualified for, and participated in, a clinical trial ALCHEMIST.

I've been NED ever since July 2018. I always tell folks "a billboard saved my life" and  . . ok, California traffic. As I've participated in this journey, I realize how lucky and blessed I am. Early detection was key for me. It gave me more options for treatment. No one wants a cancer diagnosis, I sure didn't. However, if I had to have it, I'm just so glad it was caught early. I'm also glad that I'd quit smoking before my diagnosis. I could not imagine trying to quit after I'd been diagnosed and know of many people who can't quit even in the face of a lung cancer diagnosis.

First Published: February 22, 2021

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