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Mon, Nov 30, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Lung Cancer Awareness month hits home for nurse

This testimonial is from Erin Beasley, RN and Clinical Nurse Manager of the Marshall Pain Clinic. Her mother, Pat Harvey, was getting routine treatment for COPD when her doctor went above and beyond the routine, resulting in the discovery of two cancers growing in her lung.

Her mother’s excellent medical care led to Erin becoming passionate about lung cancer awareness. On this last day of November, which is lung cancer awareness month, Marshall Medical is happy to share their story.

“My mother had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Manganaris for her COPD.  Because she met Medicare criteria for low dose CT scanning, he suggested that she have a scan. That scan forever changed our lives. The scan was positive for a nodule. PET scanning followed, and we were referred immediately to a cardio-thoracic surgeon in Huntsville, Dr. Cohen. After a right, lower lobectomy, a nightmare return admission for pneumonia, pneumothorax and empyema (basically septic) less than 48 hours after her initial discharge, she stayed in Huntsville for another 14 days.

During this time, we were told that her pathology showed small cell carcinoma with adenocarcinoma in one of the lymph nodes that was biopsied. Approximately 8 weeks after discharge, we saw Dr. Ewing at our precious Cancer Center, where we learned that she had not only one, but TWO cancers in her lung.

Two separate and distinct cancers: the small cell carcinoma was Stage 1 and the Adenocarcinoma was Stage 3 completely resected. This wasn’t your every day, common diagnosis with lung cancer. Dr. Ewing even mentioned that she was a puzzle to him initially regarding therapy. She has now completed her second of four cycles of chemotherapy and will have 6 weeks of radiation (5 days per week) after her chemotherapy ends. It has been an absolute nightmare, but we are far too blessed to complain about anything.

To say that I have become passionate about lung cancer awareness is an understatement. The more I have researched this horrid cancer, the more appalled I become. To be the cancer that kills the most people in the US yearly (more than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers together), it remains the least federally funded in regard to research.

Five-year survival rates:

  • Lung cancer 16.8%
  • Prostate is 98.9%
  • Breast is 89.2%

Something is terribly wrong with that. We have developed the most precious relationship with my mother’s thoracic surgeon. He is passionate about lung cancer and lung cancer screening. He sent us home with a garbage bag full of white bows that his wife and ten other women had made in his office in honor of lung cancer awareness month. Some of them are in our clinic now and are great conversation starters with our patients. We have so many smokers in our patient population so I get giddy when one asks, “Why the white bows?” It gives me the perfect opportunity to explain about Lung Cancer Awareness month, screening and my mother.

Dr. Cohen has told us at least two times that Dr. Manganaris saved my mother’s life. He absolutely did…if he hadn’t been proactive enough to recommend the scan, who knows what could have happened? She was asymptomatic! He had no idea that she had two separate and distinct types of cancer growing in the same lung at the same time…especially small cell, the fastest growing and spreading type of lung cancer. This cancer is most often found in latent stages when the cancer metastasizes to so many areas that treatment is usually to slow the progression of what is already there or for palliative measures. But, praise be to God, my mother’s cancer was found when it was a 1cm x 3cm nodule and only one lymph node was positive. Not to say that others couldn’t be positive as well, but out of the many that were taken during surgery only one was positive. This is why she is having further treatment in the form of chemotherapy and radiation to try to make sure that those cancers don’t come back. If they do, however, there is no further treatment.”

To learn more about Marshall Medical's Cancer Center, click here.