Leslie M

Leslie M., CA

When I was born in 1945, and as I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s, I just assumed that everyone smoked. My four grandparents and my parents were smokers so it just seemed natural for me to start smoking too. My cousin Bobbie – who was four years older – taught me how to hold the cigarette (oh, yes, there was a certain flair to it) and how to smoke in the bathroom with an open window so my parents didn’t know (or so I thought) I was a tender 14 years old. 

When the surgeon general’s report came out in the 1960’s about the dangers of smoking, it made sense to me but being still naïve and young I just said to myself “well, so I’ll die at 80 instead of 85.” Of course when you’re young you feel as if you will live forever. 

While pregnant with my first child, it seemed like a good idea to stop smoking but the lure of the cigarette had me starting again after she was born. I smoked all the way through my second pregnancy and continued on my merry way. 

In 1977 my friends were starting to quit and a very dear friend recommended Smokenders – said if it could work for him it would work for me. Well it did and I became involved in the organization and taught classes myself. In 1980, however, experiencing a severe family crisis, the first thing I did was buy a pack of cigarettes – old habits are insidious and die very very hard. 

In 1991 my cousin Bobbie’s husband became ill and was told he had to quit smoking so Bobbie called me and said “If my husband has to quit I’m going to quit too and you should quit with us.” Not wanting to quit but thinking I’d humor her, we went to the nearby hospital to take a class sponsored by the Lung Association. Well, lo and behold, we three quit on April 18, 1991 and I haven’t smoked since! 

Fast forward to 2010 – I was diagnosed with uterine cancer – had successful surgery with no follow-up treatment needed and again went on my merry way. 

In 2015 Bobbie called and said she was listening to a medical show on the radio – it was suggested strongly that if you were of a “certain age” (i.e.) past 65 and had ever been a smoker that it would be a good idea to have a CT scan as part of preventative health care. Bobbie had had a bit of a cough so she had the CT scan done and it turned out she had lung cancer. We were shocked – and with no symptoms and feeling great - I made an appointment immediately to have a scan done. The scan showed a very tiny “something” on the lower lobe of my left lung – about 3mm – nothing to worry about but my doctor said “we’ll watch it” and referred me to a wonderful pulmonologist who said he wanted me scanned every 4 months. The next scan showed no change, however the scan after that showed the “something” had grown to 6mm but still not showing cancer. The scan after that was no change but the one after that looked very suspicious and was growing. Now I graduated to a PET scan – confirmed – lung cancer!! In 2016, after meeting with one of the best thoracic surgeons in the country, the lower lobe of my left lung was removed. Success! No lymph node involvement and the surgeon said everything looked great. Again on my merry way with CT scans every 6 months. In 2018 the routine scan showed activity in the upper lobe of the left lung. I ran to the surgeon immediately – this time he said he didn’t want to do surgery – even though he said I could live a full life with only one lung he thought it best to do systemic treatment. I was fortunate to know of a fabulous oncologist who said his goal was to treat me and keep me in remission for twenty years. That sounded great because by then I’d be in my 90’s and was okay with me. The first three months treatment was chemo and an immunotherapy drug called Keytruda.. Scan done and cancer was nowhere to be found! Keytruda is one of the targeted drugs – seeks out the cancer and kills it and lets my immune system get rid of it. A modern miracle! 

I have been on Keytruda ever since – infusions every six weeks and scans every six months. So far so good. 

All of this to say --- the sadness was losing my dear Bobbie to cancer – hers was very aggressive – but if she hadn’t told me about the CT scan and early detection I’m not sure I would be here to tell my story. I am living my best life and holding my doctor to his promise

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