Nancy Alvey – 16 year lung cancer survivor

I was born in Madison WI.  I moved to Louisville in September 1981 with my 1st husband, son & daughter. I was diagnosed in November 2005 with lung cancer after coughing up a handful of blood.  I went to my Primary Care Physician who was out of the office at the time, but his associate sent me to get an Xray. The image showed 2 nodules in the upper lobe of my right lung.  It is very rare that lung cancer would be diagnosed this way, so my doctor sent me on to have a CT scan of my chest.

That next week it was confirmed that I had one lymph node and one nodule that appeared to be cancer.  I followed up with a PET scan and a biopsy was performed on the nodule. It was after those procedures that I was diagnosed with Stage II, Non-Small Cell lung cancer.

We chose a surgeon we knew to be more aggressive in his approach.  I had the upper lobe in my right lung removed. Most of the lymph nodes in the thoracic area were removed and none were positive for cancer.  After a bout with an infection after Christmas in 2005 I started 4 rounds of chemotherapy, which ended in April 2006.

After my treatments were all finished, I had checkups every 3 months for a year, then every six months for 3 years. I now have a checkup once a year and there has continued to be no evidence of the disease and to date, I have not required any additional treatments. I just celebrated my 16th year as a lung cancer survivor!

There have been great strides in the treatment of lung cancer since I was diagnosed in 2005, with the most recent being biomarker testing. Now people can be tested for these biomarkers which, if found, can help doctors administer the most effective course of treatment based on those results. I know of very few survivors who have been living with lung cancer as long as I have, but now with advancing testing and treatment options more and more people are living much longer and healthier lives with the disease.

I do believe the stigma still needs to change.  There are still so many people who will never believe lung cancer is from anything but tobacco, cigarette smoking, cigars, or pipes.  But the proof is starting to be revealed as more and more people who have never smoked or quit using tobacco years ago are being diagnosed with lung cancer today.  Currently radon is probably a greater danger than tobacco because much of the public still does not understand the risk of exposure and have not had their homes test.  People still need to be educated because they just do not understand that there are environmental occurrences that will cause problems to you, me, and our families that can undoubtedly kill us. In fact, radon gas exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers. However, if you add on top of that smoking, then you might as well be playing with dynamite.

I am so happy to be here today enjoying my 11 grandchildren along with my husband!  I love to get out and walk and I am having fun decorating our new home.  I do not preach to other people about smoking because, I know from experience it does not help.  But I do subtly let people know that I am a lung cancer survivor and yes, I did smoke but no, there are other causes of lung cancer.

The best thing I can tell someone who has just been diagnosed nowadays is there is always HOPE, always!  I believe that half the battle is to have a good attitude and with that comes HOPE, FAITH and LOVE.