Coping with a lung cancer diagnosis at age 18

As an 18-year-old, Lauren Rodriguez never suspected her lingering cough would turn out to be a lung cancer symptom. “I was in shock,” Lauren says of her lung cancer diagnosis. “I never suspected something like that.” Today, Lauren’s cancer-free, thanks to her MD Anderson care team. But cancer has changed how the now-19-year-old views life. “I’ve been given a second chance,” she says. The first lung cancer symptoms    In February 2017, Lauren developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. The then-high school senior knew it wasn’t asthma — like the doctors in her hometown of Mansfield, Texas, had said. She wasn’t sure what it was, but it kept getting worse. At times, she coughed up blood, or coughed so much she became sick to her stomach. Appointment after appointment left her with few answers. In June 2017, she saw a pulmonologist in nearby Dallas, who ran a CT scan. The scan revealed a very small carcinoid tumor on one of her lungs. Lauren had never smoked, and, aside from the cough, she’d never had trouble breathing. She had planned on starting classes the following month at Tarrant County College, but decided to delay her studies to focus on her lung cancer treatment.   Coming to MD Anderson for a second opinion Lauren’s fears continued to grow after she saw a lung cancer surgeon in Dallas. There, the care team outlined a complicated surgery, which would require multiple incisions and chest tubes to help her breathe after surgery. While the chest tubes would only be temporary, she would still have to leave the hospital with them. She was nervous...