My father started smoking at age 17. During that time, growing up in Jamaica, he was viewed as a man. This was also decades before the dangers of smoking was advertised to the public. By the time that happened, the cigarette had become my father's friend, his stress reliever and bad habit. He tried many methods to quit, that was his new year's resolution every year! But he always used stress as an excuse.
Fast forward 50 years later, my father was diagnosed with Stage 3B NSCLC in June of 2017. My father saw his PCP religiously every year for his annual physical as well as any additional screening tests that were recommended. He always received a "clean bill of health" each year. That changed in April 2017 when he felt like he had chest congestion that would not go away. He had a CXR done which showed a pleural effusion. A CT scan revealed a pretty large tumor that was already invading his chest wall. That was the beginning of an unforgettable four-month journey that did not end the way I would have liked. I lost my hero on October 10, 2017 to complications from treatment of his lung cancer at 66.
I have been an RN for 13 years and it was after his diagnosis that I learned about low dose CT scans being offered as a screening method for high risk patients. My father had never been told about a CT scan and very rarely had chest X-rays because he had no symptoms to warrant one. I cannot imagine that I am the only nurse that did not know about this early screening tool.
Coping with my father's death has been the hardest thing I have ever had to do, I decided to channel my grief into something useful. I am hoping to work with LUNG FORCE to help educate other healthcare workers about this useful tool. Smoking cessation is always best but I also saw firsthand how a very smart, strong and brave man struggled to quit. I believe his treatment outcome could have potentially been better if we found that cancer earlier as the doctor reports it could have been growing slowly for a number of years. If this education can save someone else from this grief? Then the work is well worth it.