The accidental finding
I invite you to read through my story of how a head on car accident actually saved my life!
Wife, Mom, Never Smoker, Survivor
At the young age of 40 years old I found myself facing a diagnosis of cancer, lung cancer. I am a lifelong never smoker. I did not grow up in a home with smoking. I am a mother of three sons, a wife to Ted and a full time Realtor in the Metro Atlanta market. I am a Christian and am deeply rooted in my faith in God and have been an active vocalist all of my life.
I am the first in my family to ever have developed lung cancer and it was by surprise and on accident that a cancerous tumor, the size of an orange, was found in my lower right lobe. I had no symptoms. I had no shortness of breath. I had no coughing. No signs that there was a silent killer trying to take my life, only a divine car accident.
Good news and bad news
On August 2, 2005 I was involved in head on car accident that changed my life forever. I was taken by ambulance to the local hospital where a variety of scans and x-rays were performed in order for the ER physicians to determine the extent of my injuries. The results of the tests revealed "good news and bad news". The good news was that I had no injuries whatsoever from the car accident but the bad news was very bad. The Doctor began to explain to me and my family that had gathered in the emergency room that there was something the size of the Doctor's fist in my lower right lobe. The Doctor was unsure what it was but hinted that it could be lung cancer and that I would need additional testing to confirm.
Shock and awe
But I never smoked!
I woke up the next morning in my hospital room and I knew something was "up" because my parents had driven through the night and were at my bedside. Later that day, I underwent a lung biopsy to learn exactly what was in my lower right lobe. Within 24 hours of my car accident I was diagnosed with lung cancer, but we did not know what stage it was (meaning if it had spread). As my Doctor stood in my hospital room she explained to me that the results of the biopsy results were accurate. Confused with this diagnosis I asked, "Are you in the right room? I never smoked and neither did my parents. How could I have lung cancer?" In the days following my accidental finding I learned much more about this deadly silent disease, Adenocarcinoma (lung cancer). I learned that lung cancer is the #1 cancer killer of women, that the survival rate past 5 years was only 15%, that most victims of lung cancer do not know they actually have lung cancer until they are late stage, that the funding for lung cancer research had not changed in 40 years. To say I was in shock with my "news" was an understatement. No one knew if I was going to live or die.
Within two weeks of my car accident I was fast tracked through the hospital system and obtained a PET Scan, MRI, Brain MRI, Breathing test, CT Scan and more + met the thoracic surgeon, Dr. John E Moore. On August 17, 2005 Dr. Moore performed a 14 hour long surgery to remove the tumor, the lower and middle lobe of my right lung and 31 lymph nodes. I was in ICU for a week and then was released to go home to recover for an additional 8 weeks. After recovering from surgery a port was installed by Dr. Moore so that I could receive my "cocktail" chemotherapy drug which was a weekly treatment for 12 very long weeks.
Now the beautiful part of this story is that three days before my surgery I was sitting, praying and having my quiet time. During this time I was led the the scripture verse, Psalm 91:16, "You will be satisfied with a long life". This was my devotional that was printed for August 17th, the day of my surgery. I remember calling my prayer warrior mother and told her that I believed that I was going to live. She would not be burying me. I was going to live. Today, I am a Stage 3 Never Smoking Lung Cancer survivor, by the grace of Almighty God and skillful care of my entire medical team and a host of prayer warriors. Glory to God! I am not lucky. I am blessed.
Paying it forward...
Because no one deserves lung cancer
During my recovery friends, family, neighbors, coworkers, classmates and clients overwhelmed me with their prayers, cards, meals and phone calls. Remembering so many who genuinely cared and took time to reach out was part of the strength that carried me through some very dark and extremely painful days. Through it all God continued to bless me with NED (No evidence of disease) also known as "all clear" reports.
When I reached the milestone of being a 5-year survivor I made it my mission to give back by creating awareness of this awful disease that nearly took my life. As a former elected official I was able to work closely with Representatives from the State of Georgia to create the 1st of it's kind in the United States, a lung cancer awareness license plate. Gov. Deal signed this legislation into law in April of 2012 and on my birthday MY license plate arrive (Isn't God's timing just perfect!) Funds raised from the purchase of these license plates are earmarked to go to lung cancer advocacy, awareness and research.