Thriving After a Lung Cancer Diagnosis Eleanor KinneyI've always believed that things happen for a reason. Sometimes it's hard to see why it ends up that way. Other time it's pretty clear. I got my lung cancer treated early and that made all the difference in my life. But who would have thought it would make such a big difference in my friend's life, too? That's the part that really makes you wonder.

My Diagnosis:
"I usually like surprises."

I had a pinched nerve in my neck. In the whole scope of things I'm thinking this is not that big of a deal. Just something I need to take care of at some point. So finally my doctor gets it all set up and I go in for some pre-op testing, some routine blood work and x-rays. But it ends up being anything but routine. One of the x-rays showed a mass in the lower lobe of my right lung. Turns out it was a tumor the size of a tennis ball.

Right away I get referred to a Riverside pulmonologist, Dr. John Perry, who confirmed the diagnosis. Then Dr. Perry sends me to Dr. Stephen Scott, a thoracic surgeon at Riverside who did the procedure. He told me he was confident they were able to get all of the cancer. I spent a few weeks recovering and then went to Riverside Cancer Care Center where Dr. Mashour Yousef, one of Riverside's medical oncologists, started me on chemotherapy.

I have to say that the referral from one doctor to another went very smoothly … which was good because right about then I was glad to have things be as uncomplicated as possible. It was clear that the doctors talked to each other and knew exactly what was going on with me.

So there it was. Things started off one way and ended up another. All I was concerned about at the beginning was a pinched nerve. I usually like surprises, but this is one I could have done without.

My experience at Riverside Cancer Care Center:
"I went in for chemo and now I'm taking yoga."

Once I began the chemotherapy at Riverside Cancer Care Center all of my treatment and everything else I needed was in the same place. From the time when I first toured the Center I was very impressed with the facility but especially with the people. I got my chemo there and I go back for periodic blood tests. Everyone was thoughtful and truly concerned and my chemo infusion nurse, Robin Adkins, particularly stands out.

They do massage while you're getting the chemo and there's art and music therapy. They even have some therapy dogs that seem to bring people a lot of comfort. There's also a Look Good … Feel Better class which helps with the whole appearance part of chemo or radiation. I saw people's confidence improving with something as simple, but as important, as a little help with hair and makeup.

Now I'm taking a yoga class that the Center offers and it's been helpful in dealing with the fatigue. It's part of the many things that help make treatment and follow-up care a little easier. And I don't see how there could be a better yoga instructor than Kathy Solomon. She has an exceptional sensitivity to what's going on with patients and a special gift for everything from massage to downloading iPods!

I also developed closeness with my Patient Navigator, Terrie Rose. She was very helpful in explaining everything that was going on. She was with me every step of the way, and she's one of those people who just makes you feel better just by talking to her. Everyone there seemed to have a pretty good understanding of what I was going through and helped me stay positive.

One of the Things That Stands Out:
I haven't skipped since I was twelve."

Eleanor KinneyIt was difficult right after the surgery. I was hurting and it was tough to breath. But I worked at getting some strength back before I started chemo. I tolerated the first couple of rounds fairly well but by the last one I have to admit that I felt pretty wiped out.

But that first chemo session and the first round was a breeze. When I left the Cancer Care Center after the first one I was really feeling good. I was thinking that this is the first step in getting back, and I'm pretty happy about that so I begin skipping on my way out of the building. The thing is, I haven't skipped since I was 12 years old. And now I know why. I tripped on the curb and ended up breaking a bone in my foot. It felt great to skip again, but I think I got it out of my system.

The Story Within the Story:
"I get treated for cancer and it may save my friend's life."

I have a friend who came by to visit me shortly after my surgery and I told her the whole story about being diagnosed for lung cancer kind of by accident. I think what happened to me got her thinking about herself and she said she'd be sure to get a chest x-ray at her next doctor's appointment which was coming up soon. So she did and sure enough, she had a tumor, too, in the same lung as me and just about the same size.

She had surgery right away, just like I did, and they caught it early. Here she ends up having the same experience as me. After her surgery, we get together and she hugs me and cries. "Oh Ellie," she says, "Thank you. Thank you. If it wasn't for you having cancer I wouldn't have asked for a chest x-ray and it would never have been found so early." That's right, I said. What a thing. I mean who would have thought? I get cancer and it makes such a big difference in her life.

The Benefits of Being Positive:
"I've always been someone with a lot of determination."

Back in the 1980s I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I had to be in a wheelchair for about two years. If you know anything about MS you know that it's tough coming back from something like that, but I did. And I know I'll be back from lung cancer, too. Because there are still things I want to do in this life. I've always been someone with a lot of determination. And I work everyday to make sure that I'm not dwelling on the negative aspects of life, which is an easy path to take.

I learned a long time ago that being a positive person has a lot of benefits no matter what you're doing. Having a good outlook on life has been an important part of me and what I've accomplished, from raising a family to the efforts I've made to get back to my life after health issues. Recently I've returned to volunteering at the Peninsula Fine Arts Center and I'm enjoying the plays and the wonderful talent at the Peninsula Community Theater. It's all about moving forward. Because let's face it; the alternative doesn't get you very far.

I'm obviously very pleased with the cancer treatment I've had at Riverside Cancer Care Center and they've played an important part in helping me reach my goals. But at the end of the day, you've got to put a lot of the work in yourself. And whatever it takes, I know I'm going to get there.