Hi my name is Susan Guenzel and I am a mythical creature, or so I’ve been told. I am a long term lung cancer survivor.
In 2011 my husband and I ran a pet sitting business. We would walk several miles a day. I had started to notice that I was hugging and puffing when walking the dogs up hills. I didn’t think much of it because I had gotten a little out of shape. I also developed an annoying dry cough. I spent several months visiting countless doctors getting tested for allergies, colds, acid reflux/GERD, and even Valley Fever. Nothing worked. At wits end, my doctor sent me to the Naval Hospital in San Diego. (my husband is retired Army). They immediately did an X-ray and they found a tumor the size of a small orange in my right lung.
My doctors and I were shocked. We never tested for Lung Cancer because I had no known risk factors: I had never smoked, never worked or lived near radiation or Radon and there was no history of cancer of any kind in my family. I was never in any pain.
I did not even know I could get lung cancer.
We immediately went into full cancer warrior mode. The excellent Navy doctors treated me aggressively with 2 types of chemotherapy and radiation. It kicked my behind. Unfortunately I did not qualify for surgery.
The Navy transferred my care to UCSD once it became apparent that my cancer was beyond their traditional capabilities. I was fortunate that they had partnered with Dr Bazhenova at UCSD who stays on the cutting edge of emerging therapies. Her specialty is never smoker lung cancer patients.
We began targeted therapy and life became manageable. Thankfully I responded well. Since then I have learned to live with cancer and treat it like a chronic disease instead of a death sentence.
I focus on living the best life possible now. We bought an RV shortly after my diagnosis and we are visiting all the US States (minus Hawaii) . We are trying to see all of the major National Parks. I’m reconnecting with old friends along the way.
I also get to spend time volunteering with animal rescue, Environmental causes and even delivering meals to people with life threatening illnesses.
I love my life and I’m fighting hard to keep it. My family and friends have been incredibly supportive throughout this journey.
During a doctors visit a couple of years ago I noticed that several doctors and interns came to see me. I asked my favorite NP what was going on. She explained that I was a mythical creature. A long term cancer patient that was not merely existing but actually thriving.
I don’t want to be the lone unicorn. I want long term lung cancer survivors to be so common that people finds us rather ordinary.
Thank you to Isabella for advocating for lung cancer patients. And battling the stigma that we did something to deserve this. Nobody deserves lung cancer.
Thank for inspiring us all.