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Phil L

I always thought of myself as a strong person, I served in the Marines for 20 years and I believed I could overcome most anything life threw at me. I was wrong.

Being diagnosed with lung cancer is a very humbling and scary experience. A lifelong smoker, I finally quit at age 59, right after coughing up a blood clot. My first thought was "lung cancer," and I said to myself, "I am not going to die of lung cancer and still be a smoker." I took my pack of cigarettes, crushed them and threw them in the trash.

Even so, I spent a month in denial and fear of the worst before I finally went to my family doctor who ordered a chest X-ray. A large tumor was found in the upper hilar region of my right lung. It was soon determined to be an advanced stage adenocarcinoma.

In the ensuing weeks during all the medical testing and consultations, I would cough up blood, so much blood that I believed I would drown to death in my own blood before I could receive any treatment. Eventually we found a highly skilled surgeon who agreed to perform a risky pneumonectomy of my right lung, which is the removal of the entire lung.

After surgery I underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, an experience I never want to repeat. By the grace of God and the skill of medical professionals, I am still cancer free 18 months after surgery. Coughing up blood was actually a blessing. It called attention to my disease. Too many times there are no noticeable symptoms of lung cancer, and the disease spreads to both lungs or other organs before it's diagnosed.

I was fortunate. My cancer was caught before it spread too far. I regret ever smoking and now I'm sharing what I have learned with other smokers. If you think it can't happen to you, you are wrong. It happened to me and it can happen to you.

First published: November 14, 2016

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