LUNG FORCE Heroes
I am 59 years old and a lung cancer survivor. First, a little history. I started smoking cigarettes as a teenager at the age of 14. I smoked steadily for the next 18 years and finally quit cold turkey in 1991.
In October of 1993 I began having severe headaches located low in the back of my skull. In January 2013 the headaches became worse and I began vomiting. On January 27, 2014 my husband brought me to the Bristol Hospital Emergency Room. At that time I worked as the Assistant to the President of that hospital. With the symptoms I presented with that day, they first thought I may have the flu, except that I was not running a fever. They performed a CT Scan and a radiologist, whom I knew personally, came into the room with a devastating diagnosis. I had Stage IV lung cancer, which had metastasized to my brain. I was transferred to Hartford Hospital hours later and a neurosurgeon removed the brain tumor on January 28, 2014.
I returned home two days later to begin the next leg of my journey. I began months of chemo, along with several rounds of radiation to both my lung & brain. In August 2015 it was discovered that I had radiation necrosis in the brain, which created a whole new set of issues. I went back to Hartford Hospital for a second craniotomy. Unfortunately, the necrosis left me with balance issues and a problem with the coordination of my left hand. I faced an additional issue in October 2016 when I began vomiting daily. All doctors I saw at Bristol, Hartford and Yale were convinced it was caused from the necrosis.
After six solid months of uncontrollable daily vomiting, I saw a gastroenterologist I knew personally at Bristol Hospital. He immediately diagnosed me with gastro paresis. After several weeks of trying different medications I finally stopped vomiting. Unfortunately, during this period I was unable to perform my job as an executive assistant and I had to quit my career of 25 plus years. That, to me, was more devastating than than the cancer diagnosis. I have been officially medically retired since August of 2016.
My doctors have told me that the balance issues, although they may improve slightly, will never go away completely. The positive news in my journey is that I have been miraculously cancer free since 2016. In January 2018 a very small new lesion was found in the right frontal lobe of my brain. I went to Yale in February where I underwent "Gamma Knife" radiation directly to that lesion. A CT Scan was performed in March, which showed the tiny lesion has shrunk "significantly" and the radiation did exactly what the doctors expected. They will continue to monitor me with a CT Scan to my chest, abdomen & pelvis and an MRI of my brain every three months.
First published: June 11, 2018
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