I was one of the lucky ones; I found my cancer by a fluke. At work one Friday, I noticed that my ankles were extremely swollen. Now women get swollen ankles -- if we are on our feet too long, wear high heels, etc. But this was different -- they were way more swollen! Normally I would have waited until Monday to see if they were still swollen, then call my doctor, but my partner and I were flying to Boston to see his daughter get her graduate degree. I knew enough about clots on planes, so I called my doctor. He asked me a lot of questions and said it sounded like I could go, but wanted me in the office on Monday.
When I went in (without swollen ankles!), he put me through a battery of tests including a chest X-ray. I was confused and said to the technician, "This is about my ankles...why the H is he having an X-ray of my lungs??" My doctor called me the next day and said that all the tests were fine -- except one: there was a spot on my lung. You can imagine my astonishment -- my what!!!??? He asked me to return for a CAT scan as soon as possible. When I had the test the radiologist said it didn't look like cancer, but an infection. In such situations they look for Walking Pneumonia, among other things. I had no cough, sneezing, sniffling, etc. So the radiologist suggested we wait a month and come back to see if it was gone. My wonderful doctor said he wouldn't wait a day and sent me for a PET scan. Those radiologists said the same thing about it looking like an infection, except this time, they recommended antibiotics. If it was an infection, it should be gone in 10 days. It wasn't. Days later I met with a pulmonologist and thoracic surgeon and scheduled my surgery.
It turns out it was cancer, Stage 1. I was so lucky to discover this because of a fluke. Stage 1 is so rare, that my esteemed oncologist didn't have data to work with. He would base his recommendations to me based on the data they had for Stage 2! Anyone who works with data knows that the correlations are not that clean! If we had more Stage 1 to study, we might very well find important new information. That fact and my eleven-year survival point to how important it is to screen and test early.