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Marta U.

My name is Marta and this August hopefully I will celebrate my 10-year cancer-free anniversary. I am a stage 1 lung cancer survivor: my lung cancer was found by accident. During a routine physical my doctor advised me that I had elevated cholesterol and should consider taking a statin. I was 49 at the time and a non-smoker. I refused to take the statin so he suggested a cardiac score test which is basically a chest scan to determine whether there is calcification in the heart arteries. I thought about it and finally decided to have the scan a few months later. The scan showed a small nodule on my right lung. This was quite a shock but the doctors assured me most of these nodules were benign. I then had a CT scan and PET scan. PET was negative but CT showed suspicious nodule in upper right lobe. My pulmonologist decided that due to my non-smoking history I should wait a year then have another scan, especially since I was only 49 at the time.

After one year the scan showed minimal change in nodule but we all agreed it was best to remove it. At the time all the docs assured me it was 90 percent benign. When I woke up at 12:30 p.m. in recovery I knew I had cancer. I had gone in to surgery at 7:30 a.m. and when my surgeon came in to tell me it was cancer I was not surprised. I had stage 1 adenocarcinoma and I had the "open" surgery - not minimally invasive as planned. I wish I could say it was all a blur but it was not. I remember every minute post surgery. Luckily I was in good health and did not require ICU but the post surgery experience was brutal for me, both emotionally and physically. The pain was very difficult to tolerate even with all the pain pills and mentally I was in a state of pure terror. For eight days I watched as drainage tubes removed excess blood and fluid from where the right lobe of my lung once resided.

That was almost 10 years ago. Since then I have started a lung cancer walk and have been very active in creating awareness and supporting lung cancer research. My kids have grown and now have their own lives. I am a grandmother to three beautiful boys.

The journey has not always been easy. I have dealt with the stigma of smoking and lung cancer almost on a daily basis. Everyone is so easy to judge and blame lung cancer survivors because they assume they deserve it because of smoking. No one deserves this horrific disease...

Ten years later there is still a long way to go.

First published: May 25, 2018

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