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Pamela S.

I have always been in the best of health. I've made sure I had my annual exams and am proud that I take good care of myself. I have been very health conscience for many years, ever since my husband received a heart transplant almost 14 years ago.

I had been feeling slightly breathless (almost unnoticeable) at the end of summer 2014. I attributed it to the heat and humidity and turning 60. In October I was getting ready for a shopping trip with my children when I coughed up a small amount of blood. I was concerned, but thought it may have been just an irritated throat. When the same thing happened the next morning, I knew something was wrong. I went to our family doctor who took an x-ray thinking I may have pneumonia. The look on his face when he received the film told it all. I was immediately sent for a CAT scan and saw a pulmonologist the next day. As he scrolled through the pictures of the scan, we were horrified at what we were looking at. My entire right lung was affected, the lower right lob was totally diseased. There was also a growth in the left lung which was assumed to be cancer as well. My first words were "Oh no, my poor children!" He asked how old my children were and I started to laugh as I answered "35 and 40"! Yes, they can definitely fend for themselves but I know the love we have in our family and this was not going to be easy.

Biopsies on my right lung proved that it was adenocarcinoma. I was told that it is environmental, on the rise, and that I was susceptible. I made an appointment with an oncologist who painted a very glum picture. The oncologist also felt initially that the cancer may have spread to the left side and that would mean the cancer had progressed to stage IV. The only treatment available at this stage would be chemotherapy. I then had 8 biopsies performed on my left side. I was be sent home with a collapsed lung to recuperate.

Discouraged, I told God that I was prepared for this task and asked him to let me know what it felt like to be in His arms. The phone rang. Annoyed that I was interrupted with my prayers, I looked at the phone; it was the hospital. Excitedly, my nurse practitioner told me that all 8 biopsies on the left had come back negative! No longer being stage IV, they could now add radiation to my treatment list. Then I received another phone call from a surgeon at U of M who wanted to meet with me to discuss surgery which I knew would increase my chances. He wanted to remove my lower right lung, resection the top of the right, and remove a cancerous tumor at the bottom of my second lobe. I jumped at the chance.

It was an 8 hour surgery and most of it went well, but there was a tumor they could not get to - it was between two lobes. I was released on Christmas Eve, in time to be with family. The next plan was first chemotherapy and then SRDT radiation after a few weeks of rest. I do have to say that with all three treatments, I was always kept most comfortable and able to tolerate whatever came my way. I continue to get CAT scans every 3 months as there are growths and nodules they are keeping an eye on. Right now there is nothing to treat.

I am told that now that I have climbed these rungs on the ladder, I have more options, with new treatments becoming available. I cannot be cured at this time, but I can be treated. I am hoping that new technology will play a large role in extending my life. I have much love yet to give and grandchildren I need to put my arms around for as long as I am able.

First Published: September 16, 2016

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