In December of 1986, I turned 41 years old. I had never had a full physical exam. In early 1987, I went to an internist for my first full physical. At the time, I mentioned that my father had died of pancreatic cancer and the doctor proceeded to do a cancer antigen (CA) blood test. The results showed two times the normal level of protein in my blood. After a retaking of the test, the level still showed high so I was sent for a CT scan. The scan showed a tumor in the middle of the lower lobe of my left lung.
Even though the doctor took a chest X-ray during my previous physical, the tumor was hidden behind my heart so it was not visible. My next step brought me to meet with Dr. David Barr, a thoracic surgeon, at Lenox Hill Hospital. He made arrangements for a bronchoscopy to take samples of the tumor for pathology review and classification. Those tests came back reporting that the tumor was benign.
However, due to its size that was similar to that of a lemon, the doctor suggested that there was still a strong possibility that parts of the tumor were malignant. He added that it was not wise to leave it alone as it could turn malignant at any time. Dr. Barr strongly recommended surgery, which I immediately agreed to. The surgery was five hours long and removed the whole lower lobe of my left lung. In the recovery room, my surgeon informed me that the tumor was malignant and the resulting pathology proved he was correct. Since all of the surrounding lymph nodes were clean, no follow up treatment was recommended.
After six weeks of healing, I resumed my life. This led me to a long-time relationship with my oncologist, Dr. Arthur Goldberg. I had checkups every three months and yearly CT scans, MRI and bone scans.
In 1991, my yearly scan discovered more malignant tumors in the middle and upper lobes of my right lung. At that time, Dr. Barr was on sabbatical so I was referred to Dr. Felicien Steichen, who was also a thoracic surgeon at Lenox Hill. He performed another lobectomy removing the existing tumors. Again, my lymph nodes were clean so no follow up treatment – except for my check ups and scans – were needed.
In 1994, I had the same experience as in 1991, but this time Dr. Barr had returned and performed my third successful surgery with no follow up treatment. Dr. Barr told me after the surgery that because of my history he went searching in my lungs to see if there were any additional tumors that had not shown on the CT scan. Fortunately, he did discover one and quickly removed it.
Please note that in every one of my occurrences the CT scans discovered my tumors and saved my life.
My form of lung cancer has been large cell which is not an aggressive form.This, along with all the excellent doctors, nurses and technicians that I have dealt with over the years, has saved my life many times over.
After each surgery, I changed my way of life by working with nutritional, spiritual, and physical guides. I am very fortunate that I have been clean since the last incident in 1994. I truly believe that by living a life adhering to correct diet, exercise and mental health work, many illnesses can be avoided.
While no one can define what caused my lung cancer, I do have my own theories, but as I was never a smoker I don’t believe that was a cause. I know there are many that share my profile, and I hope that the world can be educated to not automatically associate lung cancer with smoking. I think that this generalized assumption results in a lack of strong attention and commitment to finding a cure. I would like that to change.
Thank you all for your work and the opportunity to share my story.