Survivor Karen Baumbach talks about her lung cancer journey and the care she received from her cancer team.
My internist always requires a chest X-ray as part of my annual physical. I had my physical November 2007 and the X-ray showed a spot that was “not indicative of cancer, but couldn’t be ruled out.” My pulmonologist followed me for months. I had multiple CTs, a bronchoscopy and a PET scan between November 2007 and September 2008. The spot never changed, but it also never went away. I had a core needle biopsy in September 2008 and received the cancer diagnosis a week later – non-small cell lung cancer. At that time I was referred to Dr. John W. Gouldman, Northside Thoracic Surgery, for surgery.
My husband and I were stunned to receive the diagnosis. I had absolutely no symptoms. I have never smoked, have never been around second-hand smoke; I exercise, eat well, maintain my weight… all the things we are told to do. There is nothing in my family history that would have warned us. But there it was – cancer.
I decided early on that I couldn’t dwell on “what-ifs.” I shared the news with family and friends. Their support was amazing – prayers, phone calls, cards, food – all kinds of love and concern were sent my way. I am a person of great faith. I lean on my faith for strength, peace and patience, which the good Lord has provided over and over.
Dr. Gouldman and his staff were wonderful throughout the entire process (and remain so today). During our initial consult, he sat and answered every one of our questions. We never felt rushed and he had such a sense of calm and caring about him. We walked out of his office feeling good about the upcoming surgery.
I had video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) in October 2008. Dr. Gouldman removed the lower left lobe of my lung. Thanks to his excellent skill, my recovery from surgery was quick and uneventful. I had great nurses at Northside Hospital that made my stay as comfortable as a hospital stay can be. Because it was caught so early, I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation.
I got back to running and exercising as soon as I received the go-ahead from Dr. Gouldman. I have done the Peachtree Road Race every year since (and 23 times before surgery). I have been blessed to have no lingering issues. I now see Dr. Gouldman and get a CT only every other year – his follow up care over the past 12 years has been excellent.
I must admit that until my diagnosis I was guilty, as are many people, of thinking that lung cancer was just for smokers. I now know that lung cancer, like all cancers, does not discriminate. According to the American Cancer Society, twenty percent of lung cancers diagnosed are non-smokers. We must get an early screening process in place, available to anyone, not just those at high-risk. Early detection and education are key – for all cancers. And finding Dr. Gouldman and his staff was a true blessing for me.
*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.