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Tom Murphy is a lung cancer survivor outside of Baltimore, Maryland. He was diagnosed with stage 1a lung cancer in 2010. This past November, he ran/walked the Philadelphia Half-Marathon with his nurse, Lisa Smith from St. Agnes Hospital.
Why did you think you were at risk?
First, I had been a long time smoker before finally quitting in 2000. Second, my dad had died of lung cancer. Third, we live in a high radon area and while the house had been tested and was below EPA guidelines, there was still some radon. Lastly, I was exposed to Agent Orange when I was assigned temporary duties as a courier to the republic of Vietnam and Thailand while on courier runs for the 1st Marine Air Wing in 1972 as a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps.
What prompted you to enroll in a lung cancer screening program?
I heard a radio ad in which St. Agnes and I-ELCAP were recruiting smoker and former smokers over 50 to participate in an early detection study. It took several ads over a few days before I finally made the connection that this was something I should do.
Did you feel any anxiety between scans?
I did not feel anxious during the annual scans, particularly as I viewed the scans as a checkpoint and helpful. When I received the suspect scan in January of 2010 and started on quarterly scans following the nodule, I was always anxious. I have been on quarterly scans since my September 2010 surgery. I still get nervous, even though the scans have been good.
How does it feel to be a lung cancer survivor?
I feel very fortunate and blessed. From the early detection program, thru surgery, thru the clinical chemo trial, and every morning and evening, I feel fortunate, blessed, lucky, and grateful. I was diagnosed as stage 1a, with no lymph node involvement. The surgery at Johns Hopkins removed my right upper lobe. Early detection and the medical community saved my life.
What prompted you to get involved with Team Lung Love?
Lisa Smith, the I-ELCAP coordinator at St. Agnes has become a very good friend. When she suggested we do the Philly half marathon with Team Lung Love, I could not say no. Mary Jo, (my wife) and I owe Lisa, St. Agnes, I-ELCAP, Johns Hopkins and others more than I can ever repay, so I am grateful for opportunities in which I can put something back.
What would you tell someone who is at high risk for lung cancer?
I tell everyone I know that my experience shows that early detection, and CT scans are critical to successful treatment. My goal is to get individuals I know who are at risk to go seek early detection. I would like to get the same message out to those I do not know.
Do you have any words of advice for other lung cancer survivors?
Our lives have been changed forever. A lot of things I took for granted I no longer take for granted. Things I thought were important were not. I am in awe of those diagnosed with later stages and am inspired by their efforts on the roads they travel. My experiences pale in comparison to theirs, and the courage, commitment and sacrifices they and their loved ones make during their treatments and battles are nothing short of incredible.