7-20-17 Almost One Year Cancer-Free

 

I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long since I’ve written here. After each CT scan, I tell myself I’ll update this blog, but I haven’t. I think I’m just so relieved each time the scan comes back clean that I don’t want to even think about it any more. But the truth is that I think about it all the time and how lucky I am we caught my lung cancer so early.

It was a Thursday, July 7, 2016 when I had all the symptoms of a heart attack. (You can scroll down to the first entry in this Fuck Cancer blog to see all the details.) Thanks to the Affordable Care Act I had health insurance, so when the symptoms presented themselves, we went to the Emergency Room.

The x-ray of my chest showed a mass on my left lung and the rest is detailed in this blog. The next 20 days are now a blur, but a year ago it was an eternity. I quoted Tom Petty a lot; “the waiting is the hardest part” took on new meaning.

It was one year ago today – June 20, 2016 – that I had the biopsy of my lung. I don’t remember much about it other than that it was painful. They can’t completely knock you out, as you have to be conscious to hold your breath to make sure the lung doesn’t move when they go in to puncture it. But I came through relatively unscathed, and then got to go back to waiting.

The lung cancer diagnosis officially came on July 25 when the pulmonologist called about an hour before I went on the air. Hearing the words “it’s lung cancer” is like getting punched in the gut. And now, a year later, I’m recalling that moment and all that followed.

But I didn’t have to worry about getting treatment, as I was insured. Since I had an HMO plan I had to get a referral for each specialist I saw and, thankfully, my primary care doctor’s office was very accommodating. I had a few battles with the insurance company, but they covered the big stuff and, along with the generosity of listeners, friends and some strangers, I was able to get all the care I required.

My husband and I did a lot of research. We met with a few oncologists and surgeons, and decided on the University of Miami’s Sylvester Cancer Center. Dr. Dao Nguyen performed the surgery using the DaVinci robot, a minimally invasive procedure, in which he removed the lower lobe of my left lung, where the main tumor was. He also did a wedge resection of the upper left lobe because there was a second tumor there. Luckily for me, they deduced that it was a second primary cancer and not a metastasis of the first, larger one.

A year later, I’m still in pain – physically and psychologically. I’ve had CT scans quarterly since my August 30 surgery and, as I mentioned before, they’ve been clean. I’m now supposed to get one every four months.

Lung cancer likes to spread to the brain, so a brain MRI was part of the original battery of tests. A small tumor was detected, which the neurosurgeon believed was a benign, fairly common meningioma. But because of the lung cancer, they want to keep following up. Two subsequent MRI’s show that it is just that. But I’m still supposed to go back next year for another one, just to make sure it doesn’t grow.

The thing that weighs most heavily on me as I worry about the cancer coming back or the meningioma expanding is insurance. I’m covered now, because of the ACA. The Republican Party is trying to take it away, which will cost me my insurance and possibly my life.

I’m a 57-year old, self-employed woman not taking in enough money to earn a living, so if they kill the ACA I’ll be unable to buy insurance. Health care should be a basic human right in the US as it is in every other industrialized nation in the world. I’m almost one-year cancer free, but I’m afraid I might not be able to make the two-year pronouncement for fear of not being able to afford the tests to tell me if it comes back.

The Constitution states that the government is there to, among other things, provide the general welfare. I hope it lives up to its promise.

Nicole Sandler Show on TuneIn

The Nicole Sandler Show is live Tue-Fri afternoons, 3-4 ET/ 12-1 PT.