HelpLine 1-800-298-2436

Kathleen Houlihan

Originally from Texas, I spent twenty years teaching linguistics at the University of Minnesota before moving to New Mexico in 1991 with my husband Jonathan Holt Truex.  I had quit smoking shortly before the move.  In July of 1998, I developed a pain under my left shoulder blade.  My doctor and I agreed it was a pulled muscle from pruning overhead tree branches.  When the pain didn’t go away, I resisted advice to get an X-ray. 

Kathleen HoulihanWhy should I get an X-ray for a muscle problem?  I finally had the X-ray seven months later, when I started coughing up blood.  I had an inoperable 7 x 8 cm tumor at the top of my left lung, adenocarcinoma, Stage IIIB. 

I thought I was dead.  But by the grace of God, I had a complete recovery.  My treatment consisted of chemo and radiation, along with a healthy diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, lots of prayer, and lots of love and support from Holt and family and friends.  Thirteen months after my diagnosis, the tumor had shrunk away to a scar. 

To celebrate the recovery of my health, I began taking singing and watercolor classes, and I became more active in my church.   Holt and I came to appreciate each other even more and continued walking dogs and going on hiking trips in Utah as often as we could get away.  My life was much richer than it had been before my cancer diagnosis.

Then in the summer of 2009, during the course of an annual cancer check up, I was found to have a new 1.6 cm lung nodule in my lower right lung, also adenocarcinoma, also inoperable (due to location), Stage IA.  It was considered to be a new primary lung cancer (because it was ten years after the first one and in the opposite lung), and that allowed me to be treated with curative intent.

I had much the same treatment as I had the first time, and by the grace of God I had another complete recovery.  My life is just about as full and active as before.  Holt and I are still walking dogs and hiking in Utah, and I am continuing the volunteer work I do with cancer patients through four different organizations, including the Lung Cancer Alliance.