My name is Richard and I’m 57 years old. I consider myself blessed. In the summer of 2016, my general practitioner recommended I get a coronary artery calcium score to measure the amount of calcium in the artery walls of my heart. The good news I received was that I had no calcium buildup in my heart. However, I also received potentially devastating news; during the CT scan, the doctor found a mass in my chest that was initially thought to be lymphoma. This seemed logical at the time because Non-Hodgkin lymphoma does run in my family. After I researched best surgeons in the area to remove this tumor, I was referred to Dr. Shady Eldaif. When I met with Dr. Eldaif, I felt comfortable and confident in his abilities. He was interactive and allowed me to ask questions. I never felt rushed or that I was taking up too much of his time. I’m a scientist and I immersed myself in literature to find out all I could about this mass. I probably had questions that normal patients wouldn’t have and Dr. Eldaif was not put off by that. In fact, he was excited that I was interested in the clinical and emotional components of my diagnosis. Leading up to surgery, the practice staff who supported Dr. Eldaif, called me back whenever I had questions about the mechanics of the surgery. They did it in a timely manner that made me feel like they were on top of it. During the 8 hour-long robotic-assisted surgery to remove the tumor, Dr. Eldaif made sure that my wife was informed. I think he did much to reduce her anxiety. He was very attuned and sensitive and I found that to be very comforting. My wife was very comforted that this was occurring by the physician, not just the staff and the nurse. After the surgery, Dr. Eldaif would show up every morning to keep me in the loop the entire time and was accommodating to my requests. I was discharged after 36 hours. I’ve seen him twice after the surgery. He was very engaging, professional and never seems annoyed when you spend time with him. This is refreshing for me. My mass turned out to be thymoma carcinoma. This is a rare, benign cancer with the potential of turning malignant. I consider myself blessed because Dr. Eldaif was able to successfully take this tumor out and now I’m cancer free. I did not have any symptoms or was even aware of this type of cancer. My best advice to anyone is to have the preventative routine tests, including imaging, when you have discussions about your health with your doctor. In my case, I would not have known about this cancer until after it had reached the stage of being aggressive and possibly malignant. Lastly, I highly recommend the excellent care & compassion of Dr. Eldaif and the Atlanta Cardiac & Thoracic Surgical Associates (Northside Thoracic Surgery) staff.
My internist always requires a chest X-ray as part of my annual physical. I had my physical November 2007 and the X-ray showed a spot that was “not indicative of cancer, but couldn’t be ruled out”.
My pulmonologist followed me for months. I had multiple CTs, a bronchoscopy and a PET scan between November 2007 and September 2008. The spot never changed, but it also never went away. I had a core needle biopsy in September 2008 and received the cancer diagnosis a week later – non-small cell lung cancer. At that time, I was referred to Dr. John Gouldman for surgery.
My husband and I were stunned to receive the diagnosis. I had absolutely no symptoms. I have never smoked, have never been around second-hand smoke, I exercise, eat well, maintain my weight……… all the things we are told to do. There is nothing in my family history that would have warned us. But there it was – cancer.
I decided early on that I couldn’t dwell on “what-ifs”. I shared the news with family and friends. Their support was amazing – prayers, phone calls, cards, food – all kinds of love and concern were sent my way. I am a person of great faith. I lean on my faith for strength, peace and patience, which the good Lord has provided over and over.
Dr. Gouldman and his staff were wonderful throughout the entire process (and remain so today). During our initial consult, he sat and answered every one of our questions. We never felt rushed and he had such a sense of calm and caring about him. We walked out of his office feeling good about the upcoming surgery.
I had video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) in October 2008. Dr. Gouldman removed the lower left lobe of my lung. Thanks to his excellent skill, my recovery from surgery was quick and uneventful. I had great nurses at Northside Hospital that made my stay as comfortable as a hospital stay can be. Because it was caught so early, I didn’t need chemo or radiation. I got back to running and exercising as soon as I received the go-ahead from Dr. Gouldman. I have done the Peachtree Road Race every year since (and 23 times before surgery). I have been blessed to have no lingering issues. I now see Dr. Gouldman and get a CT only every other year – his follow up care over the past 12 years has been excellent.
I must admit that until my diagnosis I was guilty, as are many people, of thinking that lung cancer was just for smokers. I now know that lung cancer, like all cancers, does not discriminate. Twenty percent of lung cancers diagnosed are non-smokers. We must get an early screening process in place, available to anyone, not just those at high-risk. Early detection and education are key – for all cancers. And finding Dr. Gouldman and his staff was a true blessing for me.