When my dad passed away, my Mom and I ventured up to Lacrosse for a “final” appointment with his doctors.
Dad went from a strong, hardworking, “nothing slows me down” kind of guy, to withering away and unable to even swallow water to his eventual passing on June 2nd, 2019 in a matter of 129 days.
When we scheduled the “final appointment,” neither of us really knew what questions we had or what the goal of this appointment was. We just knew that we felt like we needed closure.
We met with several members of Dad’s care team. We asked a lot of questions. There were tears. I guess our biggest question we needed answers to was WHAT. JUST. HAPPENED.
You can read more on our visit on mom’s blog here: https://www.joscountryjunction.com/the-last-doctor-trip-for-kramer/
I feel like those 129 days were awful. Everything progressed so quickly. We asked lots of questions to see if we may have missed something. Were the steroids that made him feel good actually bad for him? Did his surgery shake his tumor and spread the cancer everywhere? How long had the tumor been there? Have you ever seen cancer spread to the C2 like that? On and on, after about 45 minutes of tears and laughter, we got the closure we needed. By the end of the conversation, they asked us to be a part of Gundersen’s “Shine a Light” program.
Of course we agreed. We wanted to help spread awareness about lung cancer and screening for lung cancer.
Dad’s lung cancer was found on a “routine” CT scan to screen for lung cancer. Dad had been “slowing down” for a few months but we all just figured it was worsening COPD. By Christmas time, Mom had talked to him and was really concerned about his breathing and wanted him to ask his doctor for a CT scan of his chest.
He finally got up the nerve and asked his doctor for the CT scan. Dad qualified for the scan because he was over 55 years of age and had an 80 pack year history of smoking. Here is the criteria for screening for lung cancer from GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer: https://go2foundation.org/
He got the CT scan where they found stage 3b lung cancer in his right lower lobe. It was a big tumor. In hindsight, this screening should have been offered to him when he turned 55. All patients who meet the criteria should be screened for lung cancer. It should be as normal as getting a mammogram or a colonoscopy. More specifically, we need to be focusing on patients who are high risk for lung cancer.
Existing High-Risk Criteria
- You are between the ages of 55 – 80
- You have a 30 pack-year smoking history
- You are a current smoker or quit within the last 15 years
Across the country, Shine a Light events are being held in November for Lung Cancer awareness month to increase awareness, celebrate those who have passed, those who are being treated for lung cancer, and screening for those not yet diagnosed. Dad’s cancer team will also be attending the event.
And you guys I am so jazzed, they asked me to speak at the ceremony! They also said mom and I could give a speech together but Mom is letting me take the reigns.
I’ve got about a 5 minute time frame to come up with a speech about Dad, cancer, screening, lung cancer, WHATEVER I want to talk about!
If you’re in the area and want to attend, here are the details:
Gundersen Health System
November 14, 2019 5:30 p – 7:30 p (CT)
Gundersen Health System
ICE House – 4th Floor
1827 Sims Place La Crosse, WI 54601
To RSVP please call (608)775-6600 (Cheri Hill)
If you’d like to attend a Shine a Light ceremony in your area, here is a link to find one near you! https://go2foundation.org/shine-a-light-events/
So I’m off to write my speech! I’ve been told the ceremony will be recorded so I will be sharing that with you all as well!