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Gail Matthews

Gail MatthewsIn October 2000, we were in Aspen, Colorado visiting friends. From there, we flew to the Cooper Clinic in Dallas for an EBT heart scan. I did not want the test as it was uncovered by our health insurance however my husband signed me up anyway.  The radiologist read our scans. Our arteries were clear! However, they saw a spot on my right lung. 

The radiologist suggested I return home immediately and see a doctor. He thought it could be an infection, something else or lung cancer.  I was aghast. As a never smoker with little exposure to secondhand smoke and absolutely no symptoms, lung cancer was not something I could get.  How wrong I was. 

After the blood tests and a needle biopsy came back negative, I went for a second and third opinion because the CT PET scans still showed something on my lung. I opted for exploratory surgery. In early December 2000, Dr. Christina Williamson at the Lahey Clinic removed my lower right lobe and some lymph nodes. I was diagnosed with Stage I brochioalveolar carcinoma. After surgery, I was deemed cancer free with no need for chemo or radiation.

In 2002, a routine chest x-ray showed another spot on the left lung.  This time I was put through more tests which all came back negative except for the x-ray and the CT scan.  So after more opinions and more tests, an operation was scheduled for January 2003. Dr. Williamson removed my lower left lobe. It was the same cancer. Again I was cleared with no extra treatment. All that was required was a yearly CT scan.

I was back with my horses, riding a bike, living a normal life with the exception of being in crowds or flying for 6 years.  I felt blessed and once the pain from the ordeal subsided, decided to help the only national organization dealing with lung cancer at the time, Lung Cancer Alliance. I wanted to bring lung cancer out of the closet, especially the stigma.  In November of 2005, I announced we were throwing a Crystal Ball in Boston. We wanted to raise awareness in an elegant way while honoring the work of seven prominent doctors in the Boston area. We brought a lot of people together and I feel launched a movement in New England.

Fast forward to 2008, my healthy husband who exercises regularly, eats healthily and always used his brain was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. We are still able to maintain a quality life, however, the disease is progressive and I am now a full time caregiver with little time for anything else. 

And while lung cancer is horrible, from what I have seen with Alzheimer’s, watching a vital, brilliant and good person fade......it is really horrible.  At least if you get lung cancer early, you have a chance and that is why the Give A Scan program with LCA is vital to saving lives......just as the mammogram is for early detection of breast cancer.  We are grateful for all LCA does to fight this lethal cancer.