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janice r.

I am a "never smoker." That's important for women to know because the fastest group of people being diagnosed with lung cancer are never/non smoking women.

In June of 2012, I began to notice that I had a very slight cough. It was just a soft, brief cough that I thought might be allergies. However, in November I was diagnosed with bronchitis and told to see a pulmonologist because the CT-scan showed a nodule that was larger than it should be. Fortunately, my doctor as on top of it from the start.

At that time it was 11 millimeters, but didn't look malignant. I had a PET Scan and another CT-scan and was told to come back in a few months. In March of 2013, the nodule/tumor was 14 millimeters and had an irregular shape. A needle biopsy was negative, but my doctor didn't like the way it looked and referred me to a local cardiothoracic surgeon.

Our rural hospital did not have the equipment needed to do a navigational biopsy, so in June, I went to a specialist 100 miles away. In the recovery room, the doctor told me that I had non-small cell adenocarcinoma...lung cancer. I always knew it was a possibility, but never thought it would be a reality.

Two weeks later, I had a lobectomy. Praise God, it was Stage 1a, probably the best it could be, and I did not need chemotherapy. The cancer was found by chance, but my doctor's persistence saved my life. I know it and he knows it.

That tiny cough went away. I never would have suspected it was anything to worry about. Who knows why I had lung cancer.

I taught for 31 years in buildings that were 40-100 years old. One room tested positive for radon, so it is my best guess that was my exposure. There is no way of knowing.

This year, my neighbor passed away from lung cancer. She was an active, young physical therapist who began to get dizzy. She was later diagnosed with the same lung cancer that I had, but hers had spread to her brain.

I do not take my good fortune for granted. I will see my oncologist for another 2 years. I have a subscription to Cure magazine, which keeps me informed of new therapies. I actively read my emails from the American Lung Association. And I keep meeting (mostly young) women who never smoked, but have lung cancer.

First published: October 27, 2016

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