Lung Cancer Survivor
Don't Let Cancer Get You Down
Although Bobby Daniels III struggled with smoking and alcohol addiction, he found the strength to fight Stage III non-small cell lung cancer at 52. He credits his strong will to live to his faith in God and the support of his family. Today, Bobby works as a nurse, and he draws on his own experiences to help others stay positive.
I had no symptoms before I was diagnosed. I found out totally by accident. At the time, I was a functioning alcoholic in a bad relationship. My girlfriend and I had a big argument that got physical. I was hurt badly enough that I needed stitches. At the hospital, I had a CT of my head, neck, shoulders and chest. When the ER doctor came in to stitch up my head, he said the scan showed a mass on my left lung that wasn’t there when I had gone to the hospital just six months before for broken ribs.
I called my doctor after I got home from the hospital around midnight. He called me back and said a mass didn’t necessarily mean cancer. He said it could be many things, such as scar tissue from my last case of pneumonia. But, I had smoked since I was 12 years old, so I was worried. He ordered a PET of my chest. Two weeks later, he called to tell me I had Stage III lung cancer.
He started me on chemotherapy and radiation therapy. From the very beginning, I was open and honest with this doctor about everything going on in my life. One night, I got into an argument with my girlfriend and my son. I started drinking and took anti-anxiety medication to get some sleep. During my radiation treatment the next day, I dozed off. Then I got off the table very clumsily. The nurse thought she could smell alcohol on my breath and assumed I was drunk. I wasn’t, but the hospital wouldn’t treat me. They dropped me as a patient.
I didn’t know what to do. In my mind, I heard a voice that told me to call a specific hospital. I talked to my pastor about it and he said that I needed to listen to God and to trust in Him. I called that hospital, and the first lady I talked to, Wendy, actually listened to my story. I cried and said, “I don’t want to die.” She cried with me. She connected me with a doctor who said he would work with me.
One day I went for a chemotherapy treatment, but my platelets were too low to receive it. I didn’t realize alcohol lowers your platelets. The doctor told me to ease up on the drinking. The next week, I drank again and my platelets were low, so I couldn’t get the chemotherapy then either. The doctor asked me, “Do you want to die? You’ve got to slow down on the drinking.” I spoke with one of the nurses and she said, “You may be dying, but you’re not dead.” I didn’t know if I had six months or two years to live. I slowed down my drinking, but I couldn’t completely stop.
When I was first diagnosed, I went to the library to educate myself. I found the book, “Fighting Cancer” by Annette and Richard Bloch. I was inspired by the story because Richard was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer and only given 90 days to live. He went on to have chemotherapy and he lived another 28 years. I thought, if he can do it, I can do it. I got on my knees and prayed to God, cut off the alcohol and went to chemotherapy. A CT scan three months later showed the cancer had spread to a lymph node on my right side. My diagnosis changed to Stage IV lung cancer.
I prayed hard, apologized to God and asked for help. The doctor tried a new targeted therapy medication. I did my part by changing my eating habits, trying to quit smoking and adjusting my attitude to be straight-up positive.
In March 2016, I was hospitalized with pneumonia and the flu. The doctors told my family I had only two days to live. My family took me off all medications, turned off the bypass machine and called hospice. The next day, they were shocked to find me sitting up in bed. I made up my mind to do all I could to live. However, I still struggled with not smoking.
A targeted therapy was added to my treatment. No one knew how long the targeted therapy would keep me alive. When I reached 50 cycles with this drug, I contacted the pharmaceutical company to thank them for making the drug. I called them again at 75 cycles. They told me I had broken the record for the number of cycles anyone has had on that particular drug. I’ve made it to 83 cycles. Although some would not see that as something positive, I see it as a sign of surviving! I hope to break 100, 125 and even 150 cycles.
I have good days and bad. The day after treatment is usually tough. I make sure to rest, but the next day, I get up and do something, even something simple like washing the dishes. I tell myself, “I may lay down, but I don’t stay down.” I take a combination of medicines to battle the constipation caused by the targeted therapy and pain drugs. I manage other ongoing side effects, such as neuropathy and stomach issues. On the days that I have trouble with my appetite, I drink a nutritional supplement.
Today, I work with patients as a nurse. I talk to them and really listen, like others did for me. I put smiles on their faces and try to make them laugh. I empathize and sympathize with them. I also share my testimony.
Cancer can get you down. I saw a lot of people with sad faces getting chemotherapy. I chose to be happy when I went for treatment. I would tell fellow patients, “A lot of people didn’t wake up this morning. We did! You’ve got to keep hanging in there!” Help yourself. Find a positive attitude. Do what you have to do to keep fighting.