In November of 2003, I became 56 years old. But lets go back a few years, to the year 2000. I had been an aerospace engineer (avionics) for about 25 years. I have always been in good health and had many outside interests including a small home business. I am a lifelong non-smoker and occasional (very) light drinker, and not overweight. The picture of health.
I do have a family history of various cancers. My work in the aerospace industry has most likely brought me into contact with low levels of some pollutants. I was on assignment in Italy when the Chernyobyl cloud passed over. All the normal stuff.
So now, on to June of 2001. I seem to have a light chest cold or flu and see the doctor for some medication since I will be vacationing on the east coast for a week.
When I arrived on the east coast, I noticed my condition was getting worse rapidly. I had a horrible cough and felt very sick. I toughed out the remainder of the week but the return flight was a very long one and I wasn't sure I would survive it. The following morning, I was firmly planted in my doctor's office. When asked if I had an appointment, I told the receptionist to call the doctor or call an ambulance, because I wasn't going to make it. She got the point.
My chest x-ray came back and I was diagnosed with a severe pneumonia and given a much stronger antibiotic than before. The drug helped me somewhat but I was back a week later feeling very weak and wondering about my ultimate survival. I was given cipro and oxycyclene at the same time. The infection began to subside. I felt that I was finally on the road to recovery.
On my follow-up visit the following month, my doctor was pleased with the progress and ordered another chest x-ray (to this day, he does not know why he ordered it).
Some weeks later I was again in for a visit and learned that the receding infection had uncovered a suspicious spot which needed further investigation. I was immediately referred to a lung specialist.
Following several weeks of additional antibiotics, the infection cleared even more but a CT scan of the chest revealed a 1 1/2 centimeter lesion in the left upper lobe and numerous questionable areas in the right lung. A lung "needle" biopsy confirmed the fears and established the main tumor as "small-cell" lung cancer.
The look on the doctor's face told it all. He didn't have to say a word. What he did say was "It's not good news, it's small-cell". I felt like my heart stopped for a minute.
My feverish searching on the internet brought me to the horrible reality that nobody wanted to talk about. That is, small-cell is only about 20% of the lung cancers but extremely deadly. It is not a hard tumor but rather like a lace or a cotton which spreads like wild fire and is generally inoperable. It has a terrible propensity to travel to the brain. It is, however, sensitive to chemotherapy, albeit an extremely toxic variety.
That was the day my world turned upside down. My thoughts turned to the things that were really important to me. You make a sort of mental list. it is a very short list! I thought a lot, I cried a lot.
Then, the breakthrough came to me. It would eventually turn out to be the most important decision of my life: I decided to fight this thing with every bit of strength I could muster. I wouldn't take "no" for an answer, I wouldn't relent. I was in it for the duration.
I studied every source I could find while I was waiting to start chemotherapy under the care of my oncologist. I wanted to know what was happening and I continued even through the various treatments.
The next section takes up from here: Conventional Treatment.