Lisa Jones (holding the bouquet of flowers) was supported by family and friends throughout her lung cancer diagnosis and treatment, and many of them were on hand when she shared her story at FirstHealth’s “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil.” Pictured (from left) are Lindsay McCullough, Hollis Howell, Kim Creger, Doris Gaddy, (her husband) Craig Jones, Jones, Beth Walker, Warren Thompson and Cathy Thompson. Jones’s son, Graham, her “rock” throughout the experience, could not attend.
TROY – Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, was a day like no other for Troy resident Lisa Jones.
It was her birthday, a special one since it was her first since she had learned she was cancer-free. She had also been asked to share her story of lung cancer survival at FirstHealth’s fifth annual “Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil” that evening.
Although she was a little nervous about speaking to a crowd, Jones felt like she couldn’t refuse the request from a member of her cancer care team. According to those who heard her speak, she rose to the occasion and told a story of medical intervention, faith and support with an outcome that frankly no one – except for her 22-year-son – had fully expected.
“I just feel like a miracle,” Jones says. “I do every day.”
John F. Krahnert Jr., M.D., the cardiothoracic surgeon who removed Jones’s diseased right lung, agrees that something miraculous was indeed involved in her cancer experience, especially since it had seemed she had so many strikes against her from the beginning.
“This was definitely a medical miracle,” he says.
Jones’s cancer story began just more than a year ago when what she thought was a bad case of the flu became a medical emergency on Christmas morning 2012. She had awakened unable to catch her breath and was soon in the Emergency Department at FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital.
She had a chest X-ray and went home with a diagnosis of pneumonia.
When a prescribed round of antibiotics didn't help, she had two more chest X-rays and a CT scan, which revealed a spot on her lung.
“By then, I was suspecting something was very wrong,” Jones says.
A Jan. 22, 2013, bronchoscopy with pulmonologist Michael Pritchett, D.O., at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital confirmed what was by then suspected: lung cancer. At Stage 3, the point at which about 30 percent of lung cancers are diagnosed, Jones’s case was considered inoperable because of the extent and location of the tumor. Jones, her family and her FirstHealth team of medical oncologist Todd Moore, M.D.; radiation oncologist Jeffrey Acker, M.D.; and Drs. Pritchett and Krahnert decided to meet the disease head on.
After the tumor, which fortunately was contained to the one lung, shrank with chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Krahnert agreed to operate. But he told Jones and her family beforehand that he had no way of knowing what he would find or what he would do until he got inside.
Jones gave him the go-ahead and told him to do what needed to be done. “I went into surgery, and I came out, and my right lung was gone,” she says. “Everything just fell into place.”
“There was no actual live tumor left, and we got the whole thing out,” Dr. Krahnert says. “That's pretty miraculous.”
Close family friend Beth Walker, the president of Montgomery Memorial Hospital, agrees. “We call her a miracle,” she says. “I just think she's a miracle.”
Jones, who recently had a surveillance bronchoscopy that showed no evidence of cancer, is especially thankful for the support of her medical team, her family and a large circle of friends. In addition to husband Craig, that group includes her primary care provider, Rob Thomas, P.A.-C, of FirstHealth Family Care in Troy, who not only relayed his communications with her team of specialists, but also sent her encouraging text messages throughout her ordeal.
It also includes her son, Graham, then a student at Stanly Community College and now an AT&T employee in Raleigh.
“There was never a doubt in his mind that this would be successful,” Dr. Krahnert says. “He was a rock.”
Jones spent Tuesday through Sunday in the hospital after her lung surgery on April 9 and returned to her job as a loan assistant with Carolina Farm Credit in June. Even though there was no family summer vacation last year, a girls’ beach weekend allowed Jones, her mother, sisters, Walker and a couple of other close friends to celebrate the “miracle” outcome that Dr. Krahnert attributes to three factors: medical treatment, a positive attitude and God.
And not necessarily in that order, he says.
“After 25 years (as a cardiothoracic surgeon), I do believe in medical miracles,” Dr. Krahnert says. “This was definitely a medical miracle.”
FirstHealth Hospitals Offer Low-Dose CT Lung Cancer Screenings
Lisa Jones’s lung cancer diagnosis has encouraged several friends and relatives to have the lung cancer screening offered by the four FirstHealth of the Carolinas hospitals.
Ironically, however, even though it’s been a year since her diagnosis, Jones herself would still not meet the criteria for the test. Lose-dose CT lung cancer screening is offered by the Imaging departments at Moore Regional, Montgomery Memorial, Richmond Memorial and Moore Regional-Hoke Campus.
Now 52, Jones is too young for the screening. And, although a former “social smoker,” she didn’t smoke enough to meet that requirement either.
However, many people do meet the screening criteria for a test that can save lives by finding evidence of lung cancer when the disease is still in its early stages and easier to treat.
To be eligible for the low-dose lung CT (computed tomography) screening, a prospective patient must be between the ages of 55 and 74 and a current or former smoker (quit within the last 15 years) with a smoking history of an average of one pack per day for 30 years.
In addition, the patient must not have had a chest CT within the previous 18 months.
To schedule a lung cancer screening at one of the FirstHealth locations, call (855) 715-2258. For more information, visit www.firsthealth.org/lungcancerscreening. The $180 cost of the screening is collected when the patient arrives for the test and is not currently covered by insurance.