Phil Richmond never missed his annual physical, and he considers
himself lucky for that. Because he smoked, his doctor performed a
chest X-ray every other year. And it was through one such X-ray in
2008 that his doctor noticed a spot on his lung, which was confirmed
by a PET scan. The diagnosis was clear: Phil had lung cancer.
“I was lucky I received an early lung cancer diagnosis,” Phil says. “Most cases
aren’t caught until later.”
Lung cancer treatment at MD Anderson
Phil was referred to a local surgeon in his hometown of Ft. Smith,
Arkansas. But the surgeon quickly admitted he didn’t feel comfortable
performing the surgery. It was too difficult, too risky. So, he set up
an appointment for Phil at MD Anderson,
another step that Phil is certain was critical to his survival.
“If it were not for MD Anderson, I
wouldn’t be here today,” Phil says.
Initially, Phil and his wife were overwhelmed by MD Anderson. It was too big. But when he met
his oncologist, Faye Johnson, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor
of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology, he began to feel more at
home. She explained to Phil that his lung cancer treatment would include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.
“The whole staff couldn’t have treated me any better,” Phil says.
“They answered all my questions, no matter how stupid they seemed to me.”
Choosing to be positive
As Phil’s fears subsided, he and his wife decided to make the most
of their time in Houston. Even though they were here for lung cancer
treatment, they treated it like a vacation as much as possible. They
visited museums. They went out for dinner. They even found time to
play a few rounds of golf. Phil was surprised he felt well enough to play.
“We stayed as positive as we possibly could,” Phil says. That
positivity is the third factor to which Phil credits his survival.
“I cannot tell you how much that helped me, and I know it’s help
some others,” he says.
Advice for other patients
After being cancer-free for almost 10 years, Phil dedicates much of
his free time to helping other cancer patients keep that positive
attitude. He serves on the board of a local cancer nonprofit and
volunteers with myCancerConnection, MD
Anderson’s one-on-one support program for patients and caregivers.
His best advice for other patients? “Even on the days when nothing’s
going right, something will go right. You just have to look for it,”
he says. “And never lose sight of that victory you’re going to have,
because you’re going to win it.”
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