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Jamie R.

This is my story I shared on my Facebook page. I was diagnosed in February with lung cancer. I'm 32. I have a 1 and 2-year-old.

I've never smoked...I had been complaining about stomach pain for about a year. When I would cough, sneeze, move or stretch the wrong way, it hurt. It started right after my second c-section. Toward the one year mark, Steven kept telling me to just go in and make sure everything was fine. So I scheduled an appt with my OB. She said everything looked fine with my incision but that I should follow up with my PCP.

So, I go to the PCP. He says he's pretty sure it's scar tissue or adhesions (the only way to know is to do exploratory surgery), but said we should do an abdominal/pelvic CT scan just to be sure it's not something else. So I go have the scan done. A few days later I get a call from the PCP saying they found nothing to explain my stomach pain, but they "saw something" in my lung and they were going to refer me to a pulmonologist.

The CT scan was abdominal/pelvic but just so happened to catch the very bottom of my lungs in the scan. Thankfully. Thankfully this "something" was in my lower lobe or we wouldn't have seen it. "What did you see?" I asked. "Oh, they might have seen a spot on your scan, but it could be just a shadow. You should follow up to be sure." At this point I started googling "lung nodule" because that's what they called it. It said how common it was for lung nodules to be found on CT scans and that almost all are benign. Now I'm thinking I should call it good and just move on. How annoying to set up yet another appt. Thankfully, my mom and some friends urged me to follow up to be sure.

So I go to the pulmonologist and he starts talking about this lung nodule and then I heard things like "possible surgery" "potentially curable" and "most likely not cancer." I was not prepared for that appointment because I expected it to be nothing. He pulled up my scan, and that nodule wasn't nothing. That was when I first got scared. It wasn't just a speck. It was a mass in my lung. Size was the main concern at this point. This doctor then ordered for me to get a full chest CT. Luckily, nothing else showed up. That was good.

Then he ordered a PET scan, a cancer scan. He called me with the results and told me the mass "lit up," but that the levels were "moderate" and it could still mean some sort of benign infection. Based on the fact that I've never smoked, am young and healthy and have no family history, they didn't know what to do with me. Ha! Statistically, it should be benign. But based on the size and PET scan results, you can't just ignore that.

So, my pulmonologist presented my case at a lung clinic. The question was whether to biopsy or do a wedge resection surgery. The issue with biopsy is that it's not always 100% accurate. I wanted to play it safe, and so did my doctor, so I elected to have the surgery.

A wedge resection is just removing the part of your lung where the mass is. That way, they can accurately test the mass and will remove the smallest portion of lung. Waiting for those results wasn't too bad because we assumed they would be benign. The chances were SO extremely low that this would be cancer. So, when I got the phone call I was devastated, obviously. I instantly thought it meant I was going to die. Everything went through my mind. How many more Christmases will I have with the kids? How many more of their birthdays? They wanted to send me right back in to take out the rest of the lobe. I think at that point I was just as scared for another surgery as I was about it being cancer.

I got the call on a Tuesday. We had an appt with the surgeon Wednesday. I almost had to go back in Thursday, but the robotic room was booked at the hospital so it had to wait until Monday. At first I just wanted to get it over with and was upset at waiting. But I think it was for the better. My attitude was so much better by Monday and I had that much more time to heal from the first surgery. They go in to remove the rest of the lobe because my first surgery, a wedge resection, has a higher rate of cancer recurrence. So, if it was benign that would have been fine but once you know it's cancer you want to get the rest out.

THANKFULLY, no cancer was found in the rest of the lobe or lymph nodes they tested. The surgeon came in two days after the second surgery to deliver this news. (Benign results come back much faster, we learned!) My parents were with me in the hospital room and that is one of the top moments in my life. I lost about 25% of my lung capacity. Right after the surgery was scary. It was really hard to breathe. I could walk to the bathroom and back to my chair and be very out of breath. Trying to read books to the kids was hard. I had to take a breath every couple words.

First published: May 8, 2018

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Hero stories are the point of view of the Hero and not necessarily the American Lung Association. The Lung Association does not endorse any specific provider, facility or treatment.

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