One small little nodule in my husband's right lung. Just 3 cm...barely an inch in length. It was uncovered when my husband Tom, age 60, had gone to the ER in June 2015 with what we thought had been a mini-stroke. Instead of a stroke, they found two metastatic lesions on his brain. The cause? That little nodule, just 3 cm, was Stage IV lung cancer that had also metastasized through his lymphatic system into several lymph nodes.
In 2010, his mother had died of undiagnosed lung cancer. She had been diagnosed with COPD and Pleural Hypertension but when she passed, they found she had a cancerous tumor in her lungs that had metastasized.
Tom's story could have had a better result. Back in 2013, a small shadow had shown up in his lung in a pre-op exam for a knee replacement. A CT-scan was taken and he was told it was likely scar tissue or onset emphysema as he was a smoker. And even though his own mother had passed from lung disease, they didn't request further testing.
He was in good shape, or so it appeared. He exercised regularly, wasn't overweight although he had been losing weight gradually. Had his doctor been more forward thinking perhaps setting a follow up CT, or even done some type of mandatory pre-cancer screening then, I'm convinced he would have fought this disease long and hard.
Instead, in the months following the diagnosis, he underwent CyberKnife radio-surgery on the brain lesions and aggressive chemotherapy for the lung cancer. For 10 months, after twelve rounds of chemotherapy, he actually looked and felt better than he had for awhile. However, a brain lesion returned and hemorrhaged. The only course of treatment was whole brain radiation...ten days over the course of two weeks, with just weekends off.
Within a month of the brain radiation, on June 1, 2016, almost a full year after his diagnosis, I said good bye to the love of my life, my husband Tom, with whom I'd shared over 22 years of my life.
I wish for better pre-screening. Had his lung cancer been diagnosed before metastasizing to his brain, he would likely have lived a few more years.
I wish for tests covered by insurance for those at high risk whether due to genetics, exposure to cancer causing agents like radon or asbestos, or even for those who are or had been smokers.
I wish for all general practice/family doctors to receive better education on the latest research.
But mostly, I wish to see a cure for lung disease in my lifetime.
A Breath of Fresh Air in Your Inbox
Want updates on the latest lung health news, including COVID-19, research, inspiring stories and health information?
Join the 700,000+ people getting our email updates!
You will now receive email updates from the American Lung Association.