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Charlie Vandebyl - Lung Cancer Survivor

On February 1, 2012, at 10:10 a.m. I got that phone call that no one believes they will ever get. I had pneumonia in January and had coughed up some blood. I saw my PCP and he put me on antibiotics and I had a recheck about a week later. They took an X-ray and the pneumonia was gone but the doctor saw a shadow that he didn't like, he said it was probably scar tissue but he sent me to pulmonary doctor for a closer look. The pulmonary did a bronchoscopy and biopsy about a week later and I waited for results. On February 1, the pulmonary doctor called and said "Mr. Vandebyl, I got the pathology report back, I'm sorry to tell you that you have lung cancer. Goodbye". That was the end of our conversation.

A short time later I got a call from my PCP and we talked for awhile and he told me he had everything set up for me and the he was sorry for the way the pulmonary doctor handled it. In less than a week, I met with the oncologist for the first time. She sent for a MRI just to be safe. I got a call from her the very next morning and she said she needed to see me as soon as possible. When I got to her office she said she should have told me to bring a family member with but I told her I had not told anyone yet. She said the MRI reveled a brain tumor a little bigger than a golf ball and it needed to be removed as soon as possible. She wasn't sure if it was cancer but she didn't want to take any chances. I told my two adult children about it that night and 3 days later I had brain surgery. It went very well and the doctor said he got about 90 percent of the tumor and recommended a newer type of radiation to get the rest of the tumor. I think it was called  stereotactic radiation that could be pin pointed down to one millimeter so that it didn't affect the surrounding brain tissue. I had five treatments and it appeared that they had gotten all of it. I healed for about six weeks and then they started in on the lung cancer. My oncologist sent me to a lung surgeon but he said he didn't want to put me through that kind of discomfort at this time which I later found out that he didn't think I would live long enough to benefit from the surgery. My treatment regiment for the lung cancer was very intense. I had chemo infusions five days the first week then a seven hour infusion on Monday the following week with the rest of the week off. Then the next week was five days in a row again with the weekend off and a seven hour infusion on the following Monday.

On the day I started chemo I started radiation as well and that continued five days a week for six and a half weeks. It took a lot out of me but my faith, my family, my doctors and my outlook got me through it all. My prognosis was not good but I didn't believe it. I started to exercise and eat healthier and by September I went back to work full time. My doctors couldn't believe it! Everything was going well, the tumor in the lung had shrunk by almost half and it went dormant. But as we all know with cancer nothing is normal.

In April of 2013 I had a CT scan and the tumor lit up like a Christmas tree, the cancer was back. On April 21, I had the upper lobe of the right lung removed. It was another difficult surgery and it took about seven weeks to recover from that one, but I kept pushing. I listened to my body but I worked out at the local YMCA with increasing intensity. Five days a week, swimming, jogging, weight lifting, yoga and anything that would help me get stronger. I am still working out, running 5k's, biking, kayaking and enjoying life. With the initial prognosis of not living much past a year, I am 6 years out and going strong! I do have some side affects from the chemo but I don't pay much attention to them so they don't bother me much. So, that's my story! A big heart felt thank you to my family, my doctors and my God for helping find the strength to live past this cancer diagnosis. Thank you for letting me share my story.