In February 2012, 55-year-old businesswoman and mother-of-two, Catherine Cook began experiencing tight pains in her chest and shoulder. Over the next six months, Catherine’s pain and discomfort intensified. Within four, because of her then-unknown condition, she became “basically addicted to painkillers.”
Almost unbelievably, Catherine visited her general practitioners – a medical doctor who treats acute and chronic illnesses – twenty times.
“I’d been back and forth numerous times,” she recalls, “but had not been referred to hospital. By August 2012, I was desperate… I remember going into the surgery and yelling, ‘If you don’t refer me, I’ll call the CPS (Crime Prosecution Service).’”
Finally, Catherine received a – as her son-in-law called it – “death sentence” diagnosis… a 4×5 centimeter Pancoast tumor on the right lung. A Pancoast tumor typically develops from cells that line the airways and begins at the top of the lung.
Strangely, a Pancoast tumor will rarely cause symptoms related to the lungs themselves.
Pancoast Tumor Symptoms include some of Catherine Cook’s:
- Severe shoulder pain
- Arm pain and hand weakness
- Horner’s syndrome (flushing on one side of the face, eye-drooping)
Over time, the tumor slowly ate away some of her ribs “like a caterpillar.” This led doctors to believe the Pancoast tumor was inoperable because of how close it was to Catherine’s spine.
However, her doctor son-in-law believed something could be done and referred Catherine Cook to a renowned surgeon. In short, by February 2013, she had 3 ribs and half a lung removed from her right side.
But now, five years of remission later, she attributes the disease to her unhealthy 40-year, 5-cigarettes-a-day habit.
“I never thought I’d be here today,” exclaims Catherine. “Amazingly and against all the odds, here I am.”
While we’re grateful for Catherine Cook’s life and cancer survival story, it contains 3 crucial lessons we all can benefit from hearing.
3 Lessons Everyone Can Learn from Catherine Cook’s Pancoast Tumor Battle
1) Know the subtle signs and symptoms of lung cancer
Among both men and women in the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. As you can see in Catherine’s story, people who smoke have the greatest risk of developing this type of disease.
What makes lung cancer so deadly is that its symptoms are subtle and often overlap with less serious health issues. Unfortunately, this is why incidences of lung cancer are so often overlooked.
8 Major Symptoms of Lung Cancer
- A new cough that won’t go away
- Coughing up blood (even a little bit)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Bone pain
- Unexpected and effortless weight loss
You know your body better than anyone! So, please, try and be aware of your bodily changes. If you do notice any of the symptoms above, or something you’re unsure of, play it safe and visit your doctor.
2) If you have a chronic condition, don’t treat the symptoms
As we mentioned above, Catherine Cook became a slave to painkillers. What makes it worse is that she visited various general practitioners twenty times! Clearly, these doctors knowingly or unknowingly just tried to mask the situation instead of getting to the real root of her problem.
Who knows if her son-in-law had not referred her to a renowned surgeon… Catherine Cook could have been dead – all because doctors favored treating her symptoms over the disease.
That’s where gaining an understanding of both functional and holistic medicine can come in handy. Changing your lifestyle (e.g., not smoking, eating healthy, daily physical activity) can work wonders by truly addressing and treating health problems. It can be a matter of life or death.
3) Take your health into your own hands
No one knows your body like you do! It may just be the most intimate relationship you have. Look at Catherine… Despite her smoking habit, she knew something was extremely wrong and despite being half-treated for half a year, she was her best advocate. She fought for her health.
So, don’t ever give up on your health. Don’t be afraid to get a second, third, or even fourth opinion if it will help and give you peace of mind. Know the signs, find the root of the problem, and look out for number one…