In May of 2013 I was just finishing up my 18th year teaching vocal music in a public school. I noticed I would become out of breath very easily. I saw my general practitioner and received the diagnosis of pneumonia. I was given an inhaler and some antibiotics and was told to come back if I didn’t feel better. The next day I felt worse so I saw a pulmonologist who took a chest X-ray. I was immediately sent to the hospital for a pericardiocentesis and had 1.5 liters of fluid drained from around my heart.
In December 2014, I had a bad cough. By March 2015 the persistent cough was wearing me down. I saw my primary doctor who did an x-ray and saw a spot on my lung, but rather than doing a scan he suggested a change in medication. I sought out multiple opinions and medications, eventually returning back to my primary doctor who suggested blood work and ordered a scan. On June 19, 2015, my wife Judy and I went to the scan appointment. My doctor called me to tell me it didn’t look good and that it showed a cancerous tumor.
I LOVE the fall in Minnesota and clearly remember the fall of 2005 following my diagnosis of lung cancer. I recall sitting on the couch looking at the gorgeous, vivid colors of the trees and feeling so calm. I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do other than trust in my faith, the physician’s, my family and friends to get me through whatever was to come.
On October 7th, 2011, I was diagnosed with a malignant non-small cell tumor in my right middle lobe bronchus. In an instant my life changed forever. Recently I had received a CT scan of my lungs, as I have severe COPD. The scan revealed a collapsed right middle lobe. A bronchoscopy was performed, a small mass was found, and the biopsy revealed the devastating news.
Being a nonsmoker and living a healthy lifestyle, I was floored when I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2013. As there is no cancer in my family tree, it was even more shocking. Seeking treatment I immediately sensed a stigma surrounding lung cancer. Everyone assumes you smoked. That angered me and to add insult to injury it seemed that all the focus and funding was on breast cancer.
I was diagnosed with lung cancer a year and a half ago. I am a former smoker, but quit 40 years ago so I never thought about the possibility of lung cancer. I was very fortunate that while undergoing a cardiac screening, I had a CT scan and an abnormality showed up on my lungs. My primary care physician followed up with me and I ended up being diagnosed with stage 1B lung cancer. Because of my diagnosis, I am a strong advocate for screening and early detection.
It all started fall of 2015 with a dry cough. I was a healthy, active 46-year-old nonsmoker – a working wife and mom of three teenagers. I ate healthy, swam competitively and practiced yoga. My cough would come and go, but I was never sick enough to go to the doctor and I had no other symptoms.
My cancer story began in March 2014 when I was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma lung cancer which had spread to my lymph nodes, spine, and hip. After extensive testing, I was informed I had a rare mutation called ALK and I could be treated with Xalkori which is an oral chemotherapy pill that had been successful in reducing the spread of the cancer.
Back in November of 2015, I felt a lump in my breast. I immediately panicked and went to the doctor right away. I was praised about how proactive I was being for being so attentive to my health and the symptoms that were presenting. The biopsy came back as benign, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Little did I know that the true enemy was lurking directly behind what I thought was my main risk for cancer.
In November of 2014, Katherine Bensen, a 40-year-old nonsmoker, got on a treadmill and had trouble breathing. She tried lifting weights and couldn’t. Although Katherine had been seen by various doctors for a few years because of swollen lymph nodes, the doctors told her nothing was wrong. Katherine felt tired but thought it was due to her busy lifestyle as a wife and working mother of four.