Her name is Claudia Rose, and she turned 80 on Dec. 4. Two days later, she received the first half of her first round of chemotherapy infusion — powerful, poisonous drugs aimed at the 8-cm tumor on her right lung.
I saw that tumor on an X-ray — a big, white, fuzzy mass where only healthy lung tissue is supposed to be. Even my untrained eye recognized it as ominous.
I have read that most every human has potential cancer cells — simply, “abnormal” cells — in his or her body at any given time. It’s when those cells aren’t cleaned up by our immune systems or they’re fed by whatever fuels them — thus they grow and reproduce – that they become cancer.
“Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell,” says the ACS.
According to her oncologist, my grandma’s tumor is likely about 6 months old. She had no symptoms to alert her to its presence save the one that earned her a chest X-ray: pain near her right scapula that she attributed to a decades-old shoulder injury.
After the X-ray, she was off for some body and brain scans and a biopsy of that tumor. I attended none of those tests with her, but I hear she handled them like a champion and tickled the nursing staff with her funny antics. Eighty-year-old grandmas say the darndest things. No doubt you’ll read some of them in columns to come.
And then, the diagnosis: lung cancer. Words no one wants to hear.
Presently there is no recommended routine screening for lung cancer like there is for prostate, breast or cervical cancers. But after breast cancer, lung cancer is the most common cancer in women, accounting for about 52 percent of all cancers in women, according to the ACS.