Danny S.

Lung Cancer - Stage 1A adenocarcinoma

Danny Stretch

When my wife attended nursing school 40 years ago, she was taught to treat the entire patient—not just the disease, but also the entire human being. At City of Hope, it is as if we have stepped back in time to that model, and yet forward into time with the technology used to treat my cancer.

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results. 

For about three years, I battled an intermittent cough. It would turn up in winter and disappear by spring, then I would forget about it. But in the autumn of 2014, it came early. In October, my wife, Rita, called a local pulmonologist. The first appointment they could give us was three months away. So we waited.

In January 2015, I saw the doctor, who ran several tests, including a chest CT, which revealed a small nodule in my lung’s right lower lobe.

A little more than three months later, I had a repeat CT scan. The results came in just before Memorial Day weekend, and the doctor recommended surgery to remove the nodule. I decided I wanted to get a second opinion.

We have friends who were treated at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA)* in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They had shared with us the extent of the personalized care and attention they received there. Just as I pulled up the CTCA® website, the sister-in-law of one of those friends called. She was extremely encouraging, so I clicked on the chat feature on the CTCA website. After giving them my basic history, I was told that an Oncology Information Specialist would call. Almost immediately, the phone rang. The Oncology Information Specialist spent well over an hour listening to my story and providing options. She e-mailed me the consent form needed to obtain my medical records, which I signed and returned immediately. She managed to have all my records forwarded the next morning to my surgeon so he could review them, and she got approval from my insurance company. All this happened within 24 hours.

One week later, Rita and I were on a plane to Chicago. Even before the trip, the CTCA Chicago surgeon assigned to my care team called to speak with me. He had read in my history that I suffer from “white coat syndrome,” a condition that causes one's blood pressure to spike in doctors’ offices and hospitals, and he wanted to help me be relaxed when I arrived. This made me feel confident about seeking an opinion at CTCA. Additionally, one of my main criteria in selecting a place for treatment was the level of technology they were using and the potential for robotic surgery.

Empowered to make the right decision

The moment I walked through the front door of CTCA, someone from the First Connections team came right up to us and asked how she might be of help. She became our immediate best friend, guiding us through the day by accompanying us where we needed to go.

Another one of our anchors was our patient navigator. She made sure I got answers to all of my questions, and took care of any issues that arose.  

Next, we met with my thoracic surgeon to discuss my options. He showed us the spot on my lung, and educated us not only about the nodule itself but about our options and the pros and cons of each, saying: “It’s your spot, it’s your lung, and it’s your decision.”

The way forward was neither simple nor clear cut. But I wanted the nodule removed, and Rita wanted a decisive answer as to its character and extent of involvement. So for us, that made the decision clear: We would opt to have the nodule completely removed. As we understood, a pathologist in surgery would immediately determine if it was malignant. If it was not, we would thank God and know it was gone. If it was malignant, my surgeon would immediately remove the entire lobe and lymph nodes, thus subjecting me to just one procedure and recovery instead of two.

The next day, my surgeon performed the surgery. He had a nurse call Rita in the waiting room while I was inside, so even though she was 600 miles away from home, she did not feel alone. The nodule was found to be cancerous, so both the lobe and nodes were removed. During surgery, they informed Rita when the initial incision was made, when cancer was confirmed, when they began to close, and when I had been taken into recovery. According to Rita, it was incredibly comforting, even the call confirming cancer. She said she had never experienced anything like it.

My pain management that night was absolutely phenomenal. It is crucial that pain medication be taken in time. I was told that if a patient goes too long without it, he must take a higher dosage. If they had let that happen, I don’t think I would have been able to leave the hospital the very next day after my surgery. Upon dismissal, I only took hydrocodone 10 for pain and then used ibuprofen to slowly wean off the hydrocodone.

My surgeon was extremely attentive. He visited twice on the same evening of my surgery, four times the next day and again the following day before we flew home. Later, when the pathology report came back saying they had gotten all the cancer, he called us directly with the wonderful news.

Young again

Since then, I’m enjoying every day I’ve been given. I feel quite young for 65 and thankful for my incredible wife, our two children and our granddaughter. I spend my free time working in the garden, enjoying the beauty of nature, or helping Rita with her wedding cake business, which she established after retiring as a nurse.

In looking back on my experience with CTCA, Rita and I have only wonderful things to say. The coordination of the patient’s treatment usually falls onto the caregiver, and CTCA truly understands this. They take care of the caregiver, knowing that in this way, they are actually taking care of the patient.

When my wife attended nursing school 40 years ago, she was taught to treat the entire patient—not just the disease, but also the entire human being. At CTCA, it is as if we have stepped back in time to that model, and yet forward in time with the technology used to treat my cancer. I do not have the words to express our gratitude for the care we received at CTCA and from my surgeon. We were educated and allowed to make an informed decision regarding treatment. I thank God for giving me back my health, and for people such as my surgeon and medical oncologist, who use skill, knowledge and technology to heal their fellow human beings.

* Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) is now City of Hope®, working together to expand patient access to personalized, comprehensive cancer care. Because this patient testimonial was written and published before CTCA® and City of Hope joined forces, mentions of legacy CTCA locations have not been updated in the interest of maintaining the patient’s original voice and story details.