Mike Espina will never forget the moment he found out he had lung cancer.
In a blog entry chronicling his story battling the disease, Mike described what he felt when the doctor confirmed that the mass found in his left lung was stage four cancer. “I remember, it was like in a movie: Suddenly everything stopped and movements became in a slow motion. I could not comprehend what my doctor was talking about, it could not sink into my head,” Mike related.
“I was enveloped by fear because I felt I would die too soon not achieving things I wanted to happen in my life.”
A shocking revelation
He said being diagnosed with lung cancer was the last thing he thought would happen to him as he was living a healthy lifestyle. He ran regularly, ate healthy, and did not smoke.
But shortly after he returned to the Philippines, he lost weight, his body grew weaker and he became easily tired, until one night he spat out blood – at that time, he felt the need to have himself checked. He took a series of tests until a biopsy revealed that he had lung cancer.
Though smoking is considered the top cause of lung cancer, heredity, pollution, exposure to high doses of radiation and industrial and chemical carcinogens also increase the risk of a person to develop the disease.
The doctor said his exposure to petroleum refineries, while he lived and worked in Kuwait as a product development specialist for a telecommunications firm, has triggered the development of cancer cells in his left lung. The trigger was heightened by stress during Mike’s time as a graduate student in Germany.
Mike’s pulmonologist recommended that he take oral therapy for three months to shrink the mass, after which, they decided on a treatment plan.
A sigh of relief
After his oral therapy, Mike underwent another CT scan procedure to check if the mass in his lung had shrunk. They were expecting that the mass would only shrink, but were astonished to discover that it had been eradicated completely. For Mike, his recovery was nothing less than a miracle.
Mike is now preparing to face another chapter in his life as he sets out to migrate to the United States. He also devotes time to painting, a habit he acquired from his support group as part of his therapy. And whenever there is a chance, he finds opportunities to share his story.
“I share my experiences so I can help raise awareness on how we can overcome lung cancer. I am grateful to have been healed by God, and I hope others can be inspired by my healing.”
A flicker of hope
Mike’s story gives hope to many who are diagnosed with lung cancer. Though the World Health Organization sees a spike in lung cancer diagnosis, developments in lung cancer treatment now give patients more options.
“Chemotherapy remains one of the common ways of curing cancer, but there are recent breakthroughs in lung cancer treatment that can help more patients,” says Dr. Gary Lorenzo, an oncologist from the Makati Medical Center.
Dr. Lorenzo explained that other forms of therapy include radiation therapy, which kills cancer cells, and targeted therapy, which counters specific abnormalities in cancer cells. Of all the treatment options available to patients, he pointed out that a form of treatment called immunotherapy proved very promising in clinical trials abroad.
Immunotherapy is a form of treatment where the body’s immune system is trained to recognize and ward off cancer cells. Results of clinical trials presented at the American Society for Clinical Oncology conference this year show that immunotherapy is effective against lung, melanoma, kidney, bladder, and head and neck cancers.
St. Luke’s Medical Center oncologist Dr. Gerry Cornelio, however, still acknowledges that despite these developments in lung cancer treatment, nothing beats a healthy lifestyle when it comes to treating lung or other cancers.
“A sound and healthy lifestyle, and a clean environment remain important factors in lung cancer treatment,” he emphasizes. He also mentions that a support group, much like Mike’s supporters from church, can increase a patient’s chances of survival.