Rick & Lisa's Story
Watch Rick and Lisa discuss their personal experiences with lung cancer and how they supported one another through treatment and beyond.
Rick: Hi. I am Rick, and my lung cancer was diagnosed in November of 2010. I did not recognize that I had any of the symptoms of lung cancer, but Lisa, my wife, was concerned that I might be at risk.
Lisa: Rick had been a smoker for many years and his mother died of lung cancer. I knew he was at risk, but also had a feeling something was up. I noticed he had lost some weight, had a little bit of a cough, and his coloring seemed off to me. I persuaded him to talk to his doctor and to ask for a chest X-ray. We later learned that chest X-rays are not the best test used to diagnose lung cancer, but that's how Rick's doctors found his tumor on his lungs.
Rick: My doctor referred me to a pulmonologist. He said it was pretty obvious from the chest X-ray that the tumor was cancer, but he also said he wanted more tests in order to confirm this. My primary care doctor recommended a CAT scan so that experts would have more information and know what sort of treatment would be best for me. The pulmonologist talked about my results with a medical oncologist. He got me in touch with the surgeon who suggested a PET scan. My case was complicated, and they told me they agonized over it for several hours, but the doctors came up with what they thought would be the best treatment.
Lisa: I was initially devastated, not surprised, but devastated. I found support through my friends. After that, I switched gears and focused on getting every bit of information I could get and moving forward. Once you start the process you don't have a lot of time to think, you can't focus on the worst case scenario, you have to try and stay in the moment and do the best you can. Some days are good and some days are bad. You just put all of the focus on the patient, put other concerns aside and take each step as it comes.
Rick: When I was told that I had stage three combined small cell lung cancer, the oncologist described what the staging was and what it meant in easy to understand terms. It was clear to me that my doctors were treating my specific type of lung cancer and that I was not just another statistic.
Lisa: I did a lot of research when Rick was first diagnosed. I was trying to understand what his stage meant in terms of prognosis. The doctors were honest with me about the statistics, but wanted me to remember that each patient is different and statistics can't predict how long an individual will live. I asked the doctor flat out, "How long does Rick have to live?" He said, "Lisa, I'm not God. I can't answer that question." That made it really hit home that each person's cancer profile is different, and you can't get too wrapped up in the numbers.
Rick: My advice, if you are a smoker, quit smoking and count your blessings. Focus on what is in front of you and being the best patient you can be.
Lisa: Take notes when the doctor is talking so you know exactly what is expected of you and you know exactly what to do. Keep yourself together and move forward. Some days are good and some days are bad. If you feel confident in your team, there is not much you can do, but to go through the process. You can't think about what ifs, you have to live in the moment. We are sharing our story in hope it makes a difference, even if it's just for one person. You are not alone.
Approved by Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed November 24, 2017.