Yet another guest post from INSPIRE, Nancy also urges others to be their own health care advocates and to not shy away from second opinions:

DSCN0658My name is Nancy. I am 55 years old. I have always lead an active life. And…I still do! I enjoy golfing, reading, reality TV, classic rock, and keeping my pet rats, (I have 6), loving cats, listening to my beautiful red factor canary sing, and working full time as a perioperative assistant for the OR in a busy hospital.

My nightmare began over 6 years ago. I got very sick and ended up in the hospital with pneumonia. I ran a high fever, and was extremely ill. The ER doc told me after a CT scan, that there was a spot on my lung. They did not quite know what it was, so they put me in isolation to rule out TB., which I tested negative for. I was taken out of isolation and before I went home, I asked my family doctor if I should get a lung biopsy, did I have cancer? I was told, no, it was only a pus pocket. I took his word that I was OK, and went back to my life. I forgot about it. Time went by, and I became a pretty healthy woman again.

Then, two summers ago, I became ill with bronchitis. I was treated with numerous antibiotics and it kept coming back. To my shock and horror, a random x-ray found a mass in my right lower lung. I was totally blindsided when I found out the mass was in the exact same area as the spot from 6 years earlier. I was diagnosed with NSCLC adenocarcinoma on September 27, 2011. The same day of my biopsy, I went to the family doctor who misdiagnosed me. He asked me how I was. I told him “not too bad considering I just had a lung biopsy”. Then I let him have it with both barrels…needless to say, he is no longer my doctor!

I had my right lower lobe removed via VATS on October 23, 2011. I am stage 1B. I began 4 rounds of cisplatin-alimta in January, 2012 and finished in March of 2012. I went back to work that April. While I was home during my treatment, I set goals for myself. I was determined to go back to work and not let cancer take over my life. I admit to having scanxiety during scan times…but, I just had my latest scan and I am NED (no evidence of ¬†disease) and have been for 13 months now. Happy dance!

I am a non-smoker. But, I was working in bowling alleys for over 20 years when I was younger and breathed in secondhand cigarette smoke. Did this cause my illness? I think it is a big part of what happened to me, along with the fact that I live in an industrial area, near several auto plants in a suburb of Detroit. Cancer also runs in my family, so it may be genetics.

I take life day by day and know that every day is a gift. I do not really believe that cancer happens for a reason. I feel that part of it is just plain old lousy luck. But I can say, I have begun some wonderful friendships since I was diagnosed. I have done things I would have never thought I would have done including learning to draw blood and also changing jobs completely. No one in my new department knows that I have lung cancer. I am keeping a huge secret, but I am also giving myself a chance to be just one of them and to just be ME. No one to feel sorry for me, no one to look at me and think she has IT. I say never ever give up, fight with everything you have…Be strong, stay busy and focus on your life.. And, most of all, be your own health advocate. Never, ever blindly trust something a doctor says. Get copies of your records, and get other opinions.


7 responses to “Nancy

  1. Thank you Nancy for sharing your story! You are an inspiration to many people, esp me, your Little Sis in survivorship! I don’t know what I would do without you and I doing plan on ever finding out! Love ya, ME XO

  2. Nancy your story struck a chord with me after my husband’s journey with NSCLC. As you say you have to be your own advocate. I believe very strongly that patients should have complete access to all their records. In the vast majority of cases, patients and the people who love them are trying to deal with a decision making process from a position of ignorance. What we learnt is that its better not to make any decision immediately when you are presented with a decision to make by the doctors. It was more comfortable for my husband to take the information in as much as he could, for me to listen and make some notes and then for him to search a variety of sources on the internet and call the doctor back once his decision was made.

    Mistakes were made in my husband’s treatment also which should not have been made. I have been angry about some of the things that happened.

    Another hospital in Toronto has recently implemented a process where patients have full access to their records on-line. They can read doctors notes, view scans etc. The staff thought it would cause anxiety in patients and make doctors more wary of what they wrote. However, research has shown quite the opposite and patients have less anxiety and are more able to partipate fully in their treatment.

    My very best wishes to you for the coming year. May it bring you much happiness.

  3. Nancy, thank you for sharing your story. I also believe in being your own advocate and, with the help of all our Inspire friends, their experiences and knowledge help us to be more aware.

    Because of Linnea, I have faith that my Xalkori will continue to keep me stable for many more months and then the Ariad trial can be a posibility.

    Because of Sean, I continue to get a brain MRI every 6 months to keep on top of any possible mets.

    Because of Craig, I have learned so very much about my cancer, it’s mutations and research that leaves me totally confused, but I can use if the need arises.

    And, through stories like yours and mine and the many others who have shared their experiences, we are all a little smarter and a lot stronger.
    Thanks again to all of you.

  4. Dear Nancy, from one survivor to another , congratulations on getting this far. I’m a thirteen year survivor of 3A Nsclc.
    The only thing I really would like to comment on is how you are keeping this secret. I understand totally, believe me. I wanted to crawl under a rock in the beginning. Now I have been volunteering speaking with newly diagnosed survivors and advocating for more funding and treatments for us all.
    Please reconsider about keeping your secret. More of us have to speak out and try to open communications so that we all smokers and non to be treated fairly. You being in the medical field know how this disease is so short changed.
    Please I really am happy to read your story and think its wonderful that you’ve made it. Hold your head high and be proud your are a survivor of one of the deadliest cancers out there.

  5. Nancy, you are courageous for sharing your story. It is going to help
    many others that are newly diagnosed. You are right about wanting
    to just be equal to others and not to be felt sorry for because of your
    cancer diagnosis. On the other hand you are a survivor and should
    be an advocate for others and yourself. Nancy, your story will
    inspire many. Again thank-you for sharing your cancer journey.

    • Not everyone is in the dark about my condition. The problem is people now instead of saying “Hi Nancy, how are ya?” It is now always and with that LOOK, “How are you feeling”? For someone like myself who is trying to put cancer out of my mind as much as possible, that stinks. So, I am enjoying my fresh start and just being normal. Me being in the medical field certainly does not mean I have to share my medical information with co-workers. My life is reallly not their concern! Nor do I feel my job puts me in the position of being the poster child for LC.



        Please don’t think I at least was trying to push you into anything. I really respect just your keeping on doing what you do everyday. I except you courage in just being you and that’s all any of us can strive to be!

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