August 13, 2019
For many cancer patients, a cancer diagnosis is completely unexpected. This was the case for Joplin, Missouri, couple Phil and Linda Cannon. Even more unexpected was the fact that both of them were diagnosed with lung cancer.
"We never smoked,” says Phil. “We didn't have any family history of lung cancer. And we've both been in nearly perfect health our whole lives."
Because Linda has a history of heart disease in her family, she was screened for cardiovascular issues in February 2015. "I found out that my heart was great," she says. "I was really relieved."
But Linda's scans also detected a small spot on her right lung that doctors wanted to observe. Meanwhile, Linda and Phil took an Alaskan cruise, where Phil developed symptoms similar to bronchitis. Upon their return home, Phil visited his doctor and learned he had pneumonia. A chest X-ray also indicated a possible spot in his right lung. His doctor suggested following up on it later.
Phil admits he didn't think much about his questionable X-ray until he was treated for a kidney stone that summer, and a CT scan again showed the spot in his lung. "My doctors moved quickly and got me tested,” he says. Physicians determined that the spot in his lung was malignant and some lymph nodes had been affected.
Within a couple of weeks, Linda's follow-up CT scan showed her mass more clearly. A PET scan also indicated the tumor as suspicious. They would need to take action.
I can't sing enough praises for Dr. Veeramachaneni. He did the whole surgery through a tiny little cut. He paid attention to us and answered our questions. He was just great! – Linda CannonLung cancer survivor
Faced with the possibility of such a serious condition, Phil and Linda sought the best medical treatment. Phil had been told he was not a candidate for surgery, but he should have chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Linda's tumor was determined operable.
The couple decided to seek second opinions, and their daughter recommended they go to The University of Kansas Cancer Center.
"We knew that the cancer center is remarkable and achieves great results," says Phil. "We considered several options, but we couldn't be happier with our choice. The quality of care we received was excellent, and they were willing to answer all of our questions."
Both Linda and Phil received surgery to remove the tumors from their lungs. Thoracic surgeon Nirmal Veeramachaneni, MD, performed a single-incision video-assisted lung resection on each person. The surgery is possible using a small 2-inch incision, instead of the usual 4- to 6-inch cut. Surgeons at The University of Kansas Cancer Center are among the first in the country – and among only a few in the world – with the expertise and experience to perform this procedure.
"I can't sing enough praises for Dr. Veeramachaneni," says Linda. "He did the whole surgery through a tiny little cut. He paid attention to us and answered our questions. He was just great!"
The surgeries were successful, and doctors have declared Linda and Phil cancer-free. Neither of them requires further treatments of chemotherapy or radiation.
"We have both recovered and are doing well," Linda says. "We will go back in a few months to make sure that things are still OK."
Of their experience at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Linda says, "The staff are all so positive and caring. They were really on top of things. And I have to give special praise to the nurse navigator system. They kept us informed and walked us through every step of the way. If we had it to do over, I would definitely choose this cancer center again."
Now cancer-free and with fresh perspective, Phil and Linda are ready to get back to their lives. Married for 50 years in December, the retired couple has 2 children and enjoys traveling. Linda, 72, does yoga, and Phil, who just turned 76, is excited to get back to hunting with his dogs.
While their prognosis is good, they caution others to visit a doctor and stay on top of their health.
"Without follow-up appointments, we might not be here today," says Linda. "We thought we were totally healthy. Little did we know what was really going on!"