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Valerie B.

My story is about my dear husband who was diagnosed 15 years ago with squamous cell lung cancer. He was operated on by a world famous doctor at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in NYC. She removed an upper lobe of my husband's lung and it was decided he would be treated for 36 treatments of radiation and no chemo.

We are from large families who flooded heaven with prayers for a complete recovery. Once he was strong enough I brought my husband to Lourdes for a complete cure. It worked. For 14 years, he was cancer free.

About 2 years ago, while on a trip to Disney with our grandchildren, it became apparent to me that my husband was quite ill. Our doctor was treating him for a lower respiratory infection but he was getting worse. I called our primary care doctor from Florida and we were in his office the next morning after we flew home. Tests showed a mass outside of his lung, winding around the bronchial tubes. The same surgeon from 15 years ago diagnosed his cancer as a result of the radiation he had received years ago and definitely not a recurrence of his original cancer.

Biopsies, collapsed lung and the removal of one of my husband's lungs kept him in Sloan as a patient for 21 days. Three days after he was released from the hospital, he was admitted again for another 13 days and was diagnosed with an endogenous lung infection called BOOP, which is usually only seen in a transplant patients.. This necessitated that he be on high doses of steroids and an antibiotics for the rest of his life. The BOOP is similar to a pneumonia that is not contagious but is chronic.

My husband bravely lived the next two years on continuous oxygen. Despite his disability, he remained positive. Our doctor had told him he would need two miles a day for the rest of his life. He did pulmonary rehab and was tenacious in walking and recovering from this terrible cancer. The surgeon was sure she had gotten all the cancer but by his 65th birthday, we found out he had a new tumor in a node in his chest near where the lung and cancer had been removed five months earlier. This was the beginning of the end.

Now his diagnosis was changed to a recurrence of the original squamous cell lung cancer. Nothing worked on this tumor so as a last resort, the oncologist prescribed Proton Therapy. It is a recent therapy that employs a different radioactive wave than typical radiation. It worked and after a month of 3 times a week therapy, his tumor was dead.

Hopeful that we could go back to our normal life, we looked forward to spending time with our dear grandchildren and family. Of course, family and friends once again stormed heaven with prayers of thanksgiving and hope for continued health for my husband. Five months later, two new tumors were found in the cavity where his lung used to be. Oncologist believed the only course of therapy would be chemotherapy even though the original chemo was stopped after 3 treatments because it did not do anything to the tumor.

Radiation hadn't worked and Proton therapy could only be used in one small area, not two tumor areas. After two treatments it was apparent that it was not working and was creating new side effects like blood clots which required daily injections twice a day of a blood thinner.

They suggested Hospice to keep my husband comfortable but not for end of life care at this time. The oncologist gave him 6 to 18 months to live. Either she lied or miscalculated, my husband died 14 days later because he couldn't breathe.

He took ill very quickly and died within hours of being moved from home to the hospice treatment center. I am disappointed because the trained professionals did not give me or our family any indication that he was dying. The hospice nurse indicated that he would be at the treatment center until he was stabilized, 3 or 4 days at the most. It disturbs me that these trained professionals mislead us or were unaware of what was happening.

On the other hand, our doctor gave us two plus years together. We got to spend our 45th wedding anniversary together and had many fun times with our grandchildren and our families. We were blessed by so many family members and friends who walked this painful journey with us.

My husband was the love of my life and my best friend. We did everything together and I miss him terribly. I appreciate the fact that he is no longer sick in my mind and body, but I can't get my heart to understand his passing.

Lung cancer is an awful disease that robs the patient and their family of many years of living. My husband was only 66.

First Published: November 3, 2016

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