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Frank l., NY

I was a volunteer responder on 9/11 and was present at ground zero for over 2 months. In February, 2006 I was diagnosed with my first of 3 primary lung cancers. Since I had been a lifetime smoker of course that stigma was placed on me. "Well, you gave it to yourself" was more or less what I heard. If you were a smoker and have lung cancer, the first thing to do is not fall victim to this kind of thinking. People who have never smoked get lung cancer. Ignore that discrimination. You're not your own victim. After having a lobe removed I was diagnosed with kidney and bladder cancer in November, 2006. Again, surgery caught it before it spread. In September, 2011 lung cancer returned. Again it was caught in time. In August, 2012 a 3rd lung cancer was diagnosed. This time surgery was impossible so I underwent 3 months of radiation and 7 months of intense chemo. It was the worst time of my life. Fatigue, depression, anger, feeling sick every day drove me to the point of giving up and letting cancer win. It was a very difficult challenge and I didn't want to live anymore. But I didn't give up. In June of 2013 I was admitted to the hospital with acute renal failure. The cause? Chemotherapy. My kidneys just couldn't take it any longer and my oncologist told me we would have to discontinue chemo. I began preparing myself for the inevitable. BUT, a follow-up PET scan showed that my cancer had gone into remission. After subsequent PET scans, it continues to be in remission. The treatments were brutal but they worked. Most importantly, all these cancers were found and treated due to early detection. I can't stress enough how important it is to be regularly monitored and screened. My first lung cancer was detected through a routine chest x-ray. It saves lives. Although I'm not particularly religious, I prayed a lot. Did it help? Maybe. Miracles do happen. I have since been certified by the World Trade Center Health Monitoring Program as a cancer victim due to my exposure to dangerous pollutants at Ground Zero. If you smoke, quit immediately, just don't be intimidated and embarrassed by the finger pointers. It will only serve to blame yourself and interfere with your battle. I'm now in full recovery, getting my life back, surrounded by loving family and friends who were by my side throughout my ordeal. HAVE HOPE. As the saying goes: "It's not over until the fat lady sings", and my "fat lady" is nowhere to be seen. Be brave, be strong and fight, fight, fight!

First Published: October 29, 2013

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