Lung Cancer Survivor

Believe You Will Survive — That’s the Key


The Lutes’ family (clockwise from top left): Pat, daughters Diane and Elizabeth, husband Larry, grandson Thomas, son-in-law Eric, daughter Kim and granddaughter Noelle.

Pat is a living example of this truth. When she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, it had already spread. But eight years later, Pat is alive and well. She takes joy in sharing her experience with lung cancer patients who call the R. A. Bloch Cancer Foundation’s Cancer Hotline — (800) 433-0464.

Pat and her husband, Larry, live in Hummelstown, Pa. They have three daughters and two grandchildren.

 

When I was a teenager in the sixties, smoking was considered cool. The day I turned 15, my mother handed me a cigarette — a rite of passage in our family of smokers.

I married Larry in 1966 and gave birth to three daughters, including twins. My life revolved around my family, church and my work typing and editing transcripts for court reporters.

Everyone in our town had a scare in 1979, when the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor had a partial meltdown. We lived near the reactor, and I’ve always wondered if we were exposed to radiation.

But as the years went by, my health seemed good. I still smoked, however. I always swore I’d quit if a health problem could be directly linked to my habit.

In 2002, while visiting one of my daughters, I began having pain on the left side of my face. It’s a toothache, I thought. My dentist pulled some teeth, but the pain continued. An oral surgeon diagnosed neuralgia of the trigeminal nerve, which runs from the face to the brain, and sent me to a neurologist.

An MRI revealed a growth in my brain — probably a cyst, said the neurologist. Don’t worry, he said, it’s probably been there since birth.

But I did worry. I saw a neurosurgeon, who said the growth was not a cyst. Since it was near the surface of my brain, he wanted to remove and biopsy it. The next day, a second neurosurgeon also recommended surgery. I agreed to let him do it.

When the biopsy results came back, I was shocked to learn that I had small cell lung cancer that had spread to the brain. I thought to myself, I’m going to die, no doubt about it, because everyone else I’d known who had cancer had died from the disease.

That night, I smoked a couple of cigarettes, went to the trashcan and shredded the rest. “I just smoked my last cigarette,” I announced. By the grace of God, when I woke the next morning, I had no desire to smoke. I never smoked again.

I then had six weeks of chemotherapy to kill the cancer in my chest (my doctors didn’t recommend surgery for it), followed by 15 brain radiation treatments to wipe out any remaining cancer.

Up until my radiation treatments, I continued to think I was going to die from the cancer. And then the staff at the radiation center told me about Richard Bloch’s book, Fighting Cancer. He, too, faced lung cancer, though a different type, and he won the fight, living 28 years and finally dying from heart failure, not cancer.

As I read his book, I realized that I, too, wasn’t going to die from the cancer because my granddaughter was only 3, and I couldn’t leave her. At the time, I was babysitting her a few days a week. If I felt exhausted, we’d lie on my bed, watching a movie. If I drifted off, she’d raise my eyelid and say, “Granny, are you still awake?” It was so sweet!

Like Richard Bloch, I decided to participate in a clinical trial after the radiation treatments. I took a drug being tested to see if it would keep cancer from returning. After a year and a half, I ended the treatment.

My oncologist once told me that if I survived two years, the cancer probably wouldn’t come back. So when I reached the two-year mark, I threw a party! Now it’s been eight years, and there’s no sign of cancer.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, always be positive and believe you will survive, because that will be your key to survival. If you believe in God, put your life in His hands. That’s what I did.

If you’re ever tempted to give up, stop and think about what you’re giving up. Your family. Your children. Your grandkids. People who love you. You want to fight so they still have you, and you still have them.

My own grandson hadn’t been born yet when I learned I had cancer. I never would have known him if I hadn’t fought back. But I did fight back -— and I’m still here!

 

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