Gina meets with medical oncologist Marta Batus, MD, and thoracic surgeon Christopher Seder, MD.
As a lifelong smoker, Gina knew the risks of smoking — but, like many people, she pushed these thoughts out of her mind.
“For years, my very dearest friend and I would sit on the phone together, have coffee and smoke cigarettes,” Gina remembers. “Then she was diagnosed with lung cancer and died from it. Even though I saw what she and her family went through, I was still in denial that anything could happen to me.”
Five years ago, at age 70, Gina got a wake-up call to start taking control of her health: She was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She had a mastectomy at Rush and was soon cancer-free. With a new lease on life, she began running, cut down to three cigarettes a day, and started listening to shamanic drum chants and doing positive-thinking exercises. She also continued her regular breast cancer follow-ups at Rush with medical oncologist Melody Cobleigh, MD, and nurse practitioner Teri Dougherty, NP.
Still, Gina’s smoking history and age put her at high risk for lung cancer. So at an appointment last summer, Dougherty talked to Gina about her risk factors and suggested that Gina was a good candidate for a lung cancer screening test — a low-dose CT scan that can detect lung cancer at its earliest stages, before symptoms arise and when it may be most curable.
Jill Feldman with Philip Bonomi, MD, a medical oncologist at Rush
Lung cancer specialists at Rush are among five worldwide recipients of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s inaugural Cancer Care Team Award. Jill Feldman, a patient at Rush, introduced them at a recent ceremony in Japan. Here’s her story:
When I was 13, I lost two of my grandparents to lung cancer, and six months later my dad died of lung cancer. Then in my 20s, both my mom and close aunt died of lung cancer.
Needless to say I was devastated and felt helpless, so I started doing advocacy work with LUNGevity Foundation, a national lung cancer organization. I also began getting scans every few years. All was good until 2009. I was 39 years old, had four small children and was president of LUNGevity, so there just aren’t words that can describe how I felt when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the same disease that I literally watched kill both of my parents.
I have been in and out of treatment for the past 8 1/2 years. Lung cancer will be a lifelong roller coaster ride for me, but because of a better understanding of lung cancer biology, advancements in treatments, and my dedicated, passionate, collaborative care team, the cancer can be managed as a chronic disease, for now.
By Ralph Marrs
I started smoking at age 18. My dad was a smoker, and he quit so that none of his kids would smoke, but everybody in the family smoked anyway. We were on our own to decide when to quit. There were seven of us, and I was the sixth one to quit. I just got to a point where I thought, “There has got to be something better than this.”
I originally learned about the opportunity to have a lung cancer screening from my family doctor, Jeremy Pripstein, at my annual physical. He explained that the government had a program for a free screening for people who had smoked for a long time.
By Linda Dowling, RN
In my role as lung cancer screening coordinator at Rush, I have the pleasure of working on a program that has the ability to save lives by identifying lung cancer that otherwise would go undetected.
In doing so, I hope to spare my patients and their families the sadness and grief one experiences when diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. I know and understand lung cancer on a very personal level.
To understand my relationship with this disease, one has to learn a bit more about me. Here is my story.
I always wanted to be a nurse. When I graduated from high school, my family encouraged me to focus my career on business. I held positions in advertising and marketing. Looking back, I was always restless and never quite satisfied with my work.
‘Love, laughter, tears’
Fast forward many years to helping my mother, a widowed lifelong smoker, who recently downsized to a senior apartment. Tired and blaming the move for her unsteady gait, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she might have a brain tumor because of lung cancer. My worst fears came true when a few weeks later she was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer that already spread to her brain.
By Emilee Lamorena
On Feb. 17, 2010, while I was teaching high school science in the Bronx, my mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. I quickly left everything — my teaching fellowship, my master’s degree program and my friends — and returned to Chicago to be with my family and my mom.
I always knew I was going to work in health care, but I wasn’t sure which route or specialty I was really interested in. While I saw my mother suffering, I came to a very big realization: There is nothing in the world harder than watching someone you love struggle for a breath. It was the most helpless feeling to not be able to alleviate any of that hardship.
After caring for her through her illness (my mother passed away about 10 months after she was diagnosed), I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to helping people breathe and supporting their loved ones. In 2011, I entered the Master of Science in Respiratory Care Program at Rush, where my mother received wonderful care, so I could help people care for their heart and lungs.
By Joe Pascente
I was diagnosed with a mass on my left lung approximately 6 centimeters in size. My primary care physician wanted me to move quickly and get a biopsy so he could decide what the best treatment would be.
I am a COPD patient with emphysema and really didn’t want a biopsy. I would rather they just went in a removed whatever was there. Some other history for me is that I was a smoker of about a pack a day for about 25 years, but have quit since 1995.
I decided to get a second opinion and was recommended by a friend and patient to Rush thoracic surgeon William Warren. My appointment was scheduled on Dec. 8, 2010, where I brought to him all of my films from previous scans and X-rays. When he entered the exam room, we talked a bit and he asked if I have the chills or feel flu-like symptoms. I told him “no, I feel fine.” I also mentioned my primary care physician recommended I move to get a biopsy.
Dr. Warren informed me I do not need a biopsy, he knows what it is and it is a form of cancer, and he feels it should be removed. He said “if it was me, I would get it done soon.” I was registered for the the surgery on the morning of Dec. 14. Continue reading
Dick Haughey was so impressed with his experience at Rush that he wrote a song about it.
“I really had strong feelings about the people down there,” he says, explaining why he, with help from his wife Carol, created “Rush Angels.”
“They went overboard for me — they were really good to me.”
Haughey was diagnosed elsewhere with incurable stomach cancer that had spread to his lungs. When he got a second opinion at Rush, doctors found two curable cancers instead.
Haughey’s experience is featured in one of the new Rush Stories, as is part of the song, an unexpected component that he offered up on his own.
“I thought I was kind of at the end of my life, and they really gave me hope,” he says. “I guess you can tell by the song. It came from my heart.”