My name is David Hanbidge. I was diagnosed at 57 years old and I am proud to say that I have reached the 16-year mark in my journey to be cured of small cell lung cancer. Here is my story:
I first noticed that something was wrong in the spring of 1999. I was having trouble breathing without wheezing and coughing. Initially, I just attributed my symptoms to my yearly allergy condition and thought nothing more of it. After a few months, I started coughing up traces of blood and decided to see my doctor. X-rays didn't show anything unusual but the doctor thought I might have had pneumonia recently. When the condition just persisted and the traces of blood became more apparent, I went to see a pulmonary specialist, Dr. Cameron Dick.
He performed a bronchoscope procedure on my lungs and discovered evidence of cancerous cells. I'll never forget the day when the doctor took my wife and me to a small back office and told us the horrible news…I had the very worst kind of lung cancer - small cell lung cancer.
I remember Dr. Dick had tears in his eyes when he told us the news. He had to tell us that the outlook of surviving this kind of cancer was very bleak. The news stunned us—nothing really prepares you to get this kind of death sentence.
The doctor told us that I needed to get under the care of an oncologist immediately and told us about a special one named Dr. Robert Nagourney, who practiced locally in Long Beach. He told us that he had a reputation of being a bit of a renegade in the way he treated cancer—using non-traditional approaches and chemotherapy medicines. However, he was earning some notoriety for the positive results that he was achieving. Dr. Dick told us that if he or his father were in the situation that I found myself in, that he would choose Dr. Nagourney for his physician.
I'll never forget that we were so shaken by the news that we had just heard that neither my wife nor I could even enter Dr. Nagourney's phone number in my cell phone. Dr. Dick observed our shock and offered to make the call for us. We overheard him speaking on my behalf to Dr. Nagourney, persuading him to add a very difficult case to his already heavy patient load. My wife and I were praying in the next room that Dr. Nagourney would see me.
One of the luckiest days of my life was when Dr. Nagourney agreed to meet with me.
He explained the basis for his approach to treating cancer was to obtain a sample of the cancerous tissue and test a wide variety of chemo medicines against it. The chemo(s) that responded the best to eliminating the cancer were then to be used to battle it.
I was scheduled for surgery to obtain the tissue sample immediately. My cancer seemed to be isolated in one area of the lower left lobe of my lung, so the surgeon decided to remove the whole area. Dr. Nagourney's tissue testing resulted in some good news - my cancer tissue was apparently very sensitive to most types of chemo.
Given this encouraging information that he had a wide range of chemos to choose from, and knowing that I would undergo anything to stop this cancer, Dr. Nagourney went to work defining an aggressive treatment plan for me. We ended up with eleven sessions of chemo for five days at a stretch, three weeks apart. He also arranged for radiation twice a day for 30 days. The final component to my treatment plan was brain radiation to help eliminate the chance of the cancer spreading to my brain.
On a personal level, I embraced my cancer treatment like a life raft. Dr. Nagourney's philosophy that our cancer-afflicted tissue’s ability to fight cancer is almost as unique as our fingerprints rang so true. It makes sense that there is no "one size fits all" approach to cancer treatment.
The success lies in matching the most formidable chemo against a particular cancer tissue.
That fact was especially proved when it was determined that the application of chemos traditionally used to fight breast cancers and brain cancers were among the best weapons to fight MY small cell lung cancer.
I did lose my hair twice and experienced some nausea and weakness during treatments. But all the way through I maintained confidence in my doctor and hope for a cure, I prayed and took long walks in the nature center most days and was constantly reminded of how precious life and good health is.
After 10 years of remission, I am happy to report that I am cured of my cancer.
To celebrate the end of my treatments, my wife and I took a life's dream vacation to New Zealand. While there, I decided to paraglide from a 1,000-foot mountain. Was I afraid? Not nearly as much as I was when I first leaned of my diagnosis. I hate to think how my life may have turned out differently had I not met Dr. Nagourney.
I am encouraged for other people's chances of success in battling cancer when I hear how my doctor's philosophy of treatment is becoming more accepted and practiced by other oncologists. I am convinced, without a doubt, that I wouldn't be here today if that philosophy hadn't been practiced in my life.