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Gene D

My roller coast ride started no where near an amusement park. It was Columbus Day weekend of 2014 and I started to experience severe pain on the lower left side of the chest. I went to my primary care physician who ordered a chest x-ray. The next morning the doctors office called and asked me to come in to discuss the results. The doctor explained the pain I was experiencing was from an infection associated with my hernia that was easily treatable. The bad news was the X-ray showed a spot on my left lung that had all the appearances of cancer. I was referred to a local hospital that had recently been associated with a nationally recognized cancer facility. After additional testing I was diagnosed with inoperable Stage 3-B lung cancer that was reported to be in both lungs and the lymph nodes. A treatment plan of chemo-therapy and radiation was developed and a port was placed in my chest for chemo and I was fitted for a torso cast and marked with tattoo ink for radiation that was begin just after Thanksgiving.

My seven year old grandson was invited to the birthday party of triplets that he attended school with in the Baltimore, MD area. My son and daughter-in-law accompanied Ian to the party and during conversation with the triplets father, he disclosed that he was the Chief of Lung Cancer at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and offered to review my file. I drove down to Baltimore that Friday and had the documents hand delivered. The next morning the doctor called me at home to discuss discrepancies in the initial diagnosis and urged me to delay treatment for a week until he could order additional testing. After more blood work and a C scan, the doctor asked that I submit to another bronchoscopy, which was performed. The team at Hopkins then discussed the findings and changed my diagnosis from inoperable Stage 3-B to operable 2-Aor B. Surgery was performed to remove the affected lung in December and chemotherapy was undergone in the Spring of 2015.

As a 30+ year firefighter I was put in contact with the World Trade Center Health Monitoring program as I had performed 13 tours of duty at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills Landfill after the attacks of 9-11. The National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) deemed my cancer to be related to my service at the 9-11 sites and enrolled me in the program that provides for medical monitoring and treatment.

I am still recovering from the effects of chemotherapy in the form of neuropathy and hearing loss, but I am still here, and that's all that counts.

I urge anyone with a diagnosed condition to seek a second opinion as it may be the difference between life and death.

First published: January 25, 2016

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