It was sometime in early 2016 when I was diagnosed with lung cancer. Oddly I don’t remember the exact date. Early that year, while getting tests for a separate health issue my doctors noticed spots in my lungs and referred me to a pulmonologist.
Over the next few months more tests followed, chest CT’s, blood tests, biopsies and consultations with oncologists and surgeons. The diagnosis was adenocarcinoma in the left lung. My best chance was to have a lobectomy of that section of the lung and the surgery was performed on November 16, 2016. That’s the date that sticks in my mind and I consider it my cancer anniversary. The surgery went well. There was a minor complication and I spent an extra day or two in ICU but was out of the hospital within a week followed by several weeks recuperating at home.
The first post-op chest CT looked good. The doctors thought they had gotten all the cancerous nodules so while we discussed possible radiation or chemo we decided against those and to just follow up with six month checkups. About two years into this new routine of chest CT’s and doctor visits one of my regular scans showed small new nodules forming in both the right lung and the remaining portion of the left. The new nodules were small and hazy, not even solid, so no treatment was recommended other than to keep an eye on them.
Over the next few scans the new nodules increased in size and density, as expected, and my “team” of doctors decided on a series of radiation treatments that I went through in May of 2021. Early signs are the treatment was successful. As I’m writing this the fifth anniversary of my lung surgery is approaching. When I was first diagnosed and learning more about my cancer I heard somewhere how being cancer free for five years was some kind of benchmark.
I thought if I made it to five years I could call myself a cancer survivor and everything would be ok. After having the cancer return and going through the recent radiation treatments I know that there is no magic number whether it’s five years or any other time period. I may never be “cancer-free” but I do think of myself now as a cancer survivor. I realize now that I became a survivor the very first day of my diagnosis. I was a survivor when I woke up from surgery. I am a survivor everyday I’m lucky enough to be around to enjoy life and that’s a pretty good place to be!