Steven S

Steven S., MN

Joan’s Story (by her husband Steve)

In the fall of 2019, while we were cleaning out her parent’s house to get it ready to sell, Joan had developed a dry cough. The kind of cough you would never give a second thought to, especially with fall pollens in the air and the dust from cleaning out her parent’s house. I told Joan it was time for her and I to start living life for us now, that the last of our parents were gone, having helped take care of them for the last 10 years. And that our daughter Josie was in college and okay on her own. I said we should plan some trips and really make a point for us to enjoy our lives again. We booked a trip to Tucson Arizona for just after Christmas and a trip to Fort Myers Florida the following March. We were both excited. We love to travel and hadn’t had the chance to do much traveling the last several years. About the first part of December Joan had developed what she that was reflux. Our doctor also thought that Joan had reflux and recommended that she try over the counter medication for reflux which she did, and it seemed to work. While Joan and I were in Tucson, her reflux got much worse and Joan make an appointment to see our doctor as soon as we got back home. Joan was prescribed prescription medication for reflux. Four days later Joan was coughing up blood. Our doctor said to go the hospital right away. We went to United Hospital where they took chest x-rays, C.A.T. scans, P.E.T. scans and did numerous blood work test. About six hours later the doctor came in with the results. Joan, we think you have lung cancer. Our lives just changed forever!

The following morning Joan was scheduled for a liver biopsy. The result was that Joan had stage 4 Squamous cell lung cancer. The day was January 9th, 2020. I’ll never forget that day! The cancer had spread to her adrenal glands and her liver which was pushing on her stomach, hence what we thought was reflux. We were in shock! How could this be I said. Couldn’t it be something else from all the dust and pollen? I’m afraid not sir I was told. How can Joan have stage 4 lung cancer when she does cardio workouts 3-4 times a week, eats healthy, hardly drinks alcohol at all and never smoked? Unfortunately, many times when lung cancer is discovered in a nonsmoker it is already stage 4, we were told. Joan and I held each other and cried!

Test were done to determine the best course of action to control the cancer and give Joan the longest and highest quality of life possible with the cancer. There was no cure and surgery was not an option we were told!  Joan was put on an oral cancer drug. With follow up appointments every two months. At first the drug worked wonderfully, dramatically shrinking all the tumors. Then the cancer mutated and unleashed a fire of sorts through her body! The oral cancer drug was no longer controlling the cancer.

 Joan proceeded to have 4 rounds of chemotherapy with very little or no positive effects and a lot of negative side effects. Radiation was recommended next. This work on the radiated area, however the cancer would go to another part of her body, and she would have more radiation on the effected area. The cancer was now in her brain as well!

This went on until the December of 2020 when Joan told me she was tired of fighting the fight and all the pain! I want to go into hospice she told me and just control the pain. I tried to talk her out of hospice and to keep fighting the cancer! The next day I told Joan it was selfish on my part to tell her what to do and that I will support her on her decision. Joan called her team of doctors and told them she wanted to go into hospice. The next day Joan was transferred into hospice. We decided to do Hospice in our home for Joan’s comfort and being able to have as many visitors as she wanting for as long as she wanted. Not something possible in a hospice facility during Covid, especially before the Covid vaccinations were available. Having Joan here at home for hospice was the most difficult thing I have ever gone through, physically, mentally and emotionally, however I’m so glad we could do this for her and were able to be by her side to the very end! Joan died on January 22, 2021 at age 60. Just over one year from the time she was diagnosed.  We miss her dearly!

I would like to encourage you all today to continue the support and increase the funding for the research done by the American Lung Association. To ensure adequate and affordable health care for all and earlier detection of this terrible disease. Thank you.

First Published: February 7, 2022

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