Grow Through It: Health Issues & Illness
Brad Smith has experienced more than one bout of cancer, but was fortunate to have discovered it at all. Pain around his eye took him to the emergency room where the doctors didn’t find anything, but suggested he go to his primary care physician and also have a stress test. His primary care took one look at him and recognized that he had shingles. She sent him to the cardiologist for a workup and the cardiologist saw a mass on his lung. After visiting the pulmonologist, he was diagnosed as having non-small cell lung cancer and was immediately put on chemo and radiation.
About a year later, the cancer had metastasized to his brain and the tumor was removed. He was put on Tarceva, a cancer drug, until his doctor later changed his prescription to Tagrisso, a state of the art lung cancer medication.
Smith was stable until 2020 when he started to experience pneumonia-like symptoms. He thought it was COVID-19, but it was actually pneumonitis, a rare side effect of Tagrisso. He went off of Tagrisso. After two months and scans, there was no evidence of the cancer. More months went by with more scans and no cancer detected. This has been going on for 3.5 years. He is not on any cancer drugs and is not receiving any treatment.
It has been a bit of a mystery since lung cancer is not something that tends to just go away. His cancer doctor thinks the pneumonitis may have caused an allergic immunological response that had some effect on the cancer.
In describing how he got through it, Smith says he tries not to stress about things he can’t control. His attitude is ‘it is what it is.’ He has tried to live his life the best way that he can given the situation. Also, it is important for him to be a role model to his children and to show them that while bad things may happen, it is more important how you react to the bad things than the bad things themselves.
His family and friends have helped support him throughout his ordeal. And he feels very comfortable sharing his experience with others. In fact, it gives him energy. He is also an extreme exercise addict who exercised throughout his treatment and continues to do so today.
Smith learned that when you go through an experience like this, there is a divide in the road. In one direction you can accept what you have, live your life, deal with it, and move on. You have one life to live and you need to play the hand you’re dealt. This is how he approached his cancer diagnosis.
He was given 2 or 3 years at the outset and he decided to make the most of the time he had.
His advice is to make exercise a habit when you are healthy. Then it will be easier to exercise if you get sick. He also belongs to several Facebook cancer support groups and sees the benefits in finding a place where people can answer any questions you may have.
Smith encourages others to never lose hope. There are new drugs, new clinical trials every day. And as the old Monty Python movie said, “Always look on the bright side of things.”