In May of 2007, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. Shortly after, while testing was being done to stage the lymphoma, two small tumors were discovered on my lungs. My first reaction was tears. It seemed as though with every passing day my results got worse and worse. Then my doctor recommended that I see Dr. Scott Gettinger, Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology at Yale School of Medicine and a member of the Yale Cancer Center Thoracic Oncology Program. Upon meeting Dr. Gettinger, I felt confident for the first time and knew that he would take care of me in the best possible way and that what he recommended would be right for me.
It was recommended that I have surgery to remove the two tumors on my lungs. Dr. Gettinger worked with Dr. Cooper, Co-Director of the Yale Lymphoma, Leukemia & Myeloma Program, and Dr. Frank Detterbeck, Professor of Surgery and a member of the Thoracic Oncology Program, to come up with the best treatment plan for me. Together, they decided that I should receive chemotherapy to treat the lymphoma before having surgery to remove the tumors on my lungs. Beginning in August, I had four rounds of chemotherapy, and once I recovered from that, Dr. Detterbeck performed surgery for my lung cancer. Thankfully the cancer had not metastasized.
I found that everything that helped me cope with one diagnosis, helped me cope with the other. It was devastating receiving the second diagnosis of lung cancer, but I don’t think it was any more devastating than receiving the first one. I was so blown apart already that I don’t think it would have been any easier dealing with one diagnosis instead of two. I became involved with complementary therapy such as Reiki and Yoga that helped me feel like I was in control of what was happening. It was a very scary time, but I just kept saying to myself, “You are alive, be grateful.”
Dr. Gettinger treated me with respect, but also warmth and compassion and that made a huge difference. I see the members of the Thoracic Oncology Program as my heroes. They made me feel that finally it was going to be okay, and that I would get through this. It is important to take your time and think every decision over. Surgery was the only treatment option recommended for my lung cancer, and I had never been a believer in surgery, but I am a believer now.
After my treatments, I joined the Lung Cancer Support Group at Yale run by Irene Scanlon, LCSW, and Linda David, RN. It helps to be able to share my experience and talk with others that have been where I was. Irene and Linda also share information about other great resources that are out there. Some people don’t like to be public about their diagnosis, but I have found that it helps to tell people and to receive that support in return. I also learned to appreciate my family much more. They sent out weekly updates for me to other family members and friends to keep them informed of my progress.
Cloudy bits remain on my lungs, and I follow-up with CAT scans to monitor it. Cancer is always in the back of my mind, and the fact that it could return, but I now see every day as precious and have decided not to let the illness take one more day away from me than is absolutely necessary. Great cancer care is the key to my survival, and I remain hopeful to this day.