Common health symptoms turn out to be cancer

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My name is Steve Hirsch and my story begins in early 2017. At that time, I was experiencing hoarseness and wheezing. After seeing my family physician and cardiologist, I saw an ear, nose, throat specialist. Wanting to “cover all bases”, Dr. Givens referred me to Dr. Schope, a lung specialist. Dr. Schope didn’t hear any air moving in my left lung and was immediately concerned. From there, my whole world changed. 

Further testing showed part of my lung collapsed and there was a large tumor blocking the air tube entering my left lung.  A PET scan revealed it was cancer. Eventually my entire left lung was removed, along with 14 lymph nodes, including some of which were cancerous.  

I was then referred to Dr. Hermann, an oncologist who started me on chemotherapy in November 2016. However, my body could only handle one cycle.  Dr. Hermann and Dr. Schope monitored my progress with labs, CAT and PET scans.  This included tracking a dormant nodule in my right lung.

In August a repeat CAT scan indicated the nodule had doubled in size. It was determined that it was most likely cancerous. 

In September, I went to the Wendt Regional Cancer Center and met with Dr. Turaka, a radiation oncologist who specializes in lung cancer.  She recommended a high-tech treatment called “SBRT”, which is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy, using a special technique called “Rapid Arc”.  This technique kills the tumor leaving surrounding healthy lung tissue untouched.  I had 5 of these high specialty treatments and just finished a few weeks ago. Today, I am a Survivor.

I feel I have the best medical team one could hope for between UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital’s Wendt Regional Cancer Center and Grand River Medical Group. Everyone from the receptionist, to the nurses, therapists and doctors are outstanding, caring and compassionate.  I know I am well taken care of and they care about me as a person.  I also know I am receiving the best possible care and highest technology available and it’s close to home. Having a loving and supportive wife and family helped me through this; they are my rocks.

Lung cancer can go undiagnosed for a long time because symptoms—such as a persistent cough, hoarseness, wheezing or shortness of breath, and frequent bronchitis--all of which I experienced, can be chalked up to other health issues.  If you notice some of these symptoms and feel you are at risk for lung cancer, talk to your doctor.  I learned that advocating for yourself can save your life.