Roberta Bush - Lung Cancer

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Swedish Thoracic Surgery / First Hill

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In August of 2004, when I first heard the words “you have a tumor and it is cancerous,” I was devastated. The tumor was attached to the outside lung wall and chest wall, and was growing into the spine at the second and third vertebrae. It was encapsulated and around five to six centimeters in size.

I was then told by the surgeon here in Fairbanks, Alaska, that they usually don’t operate and take out tumors larger than three centimeters, and no one here in Fairbanks could do it.

So when I saw Dr. Andrew Cox in the oncology department at the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, I told him I wanted to get a second opinion on my condition. He helped me by calling the Swedish Cancer Institute and getting me an appointment to see Dr. Howard West in the oncology department. He was able to see me right away, so we flew out the next day to Seattle. Dr. Howard West brought in Dr. Eric Vallieres from thoracic surgery, and Dr. Vallieres brought in Dr. Jay Williams, a spine surgeon. Together, they said they could do the surgery. Right away, I felt a great bonding with Dr. Vallieres and Dr. Williams.

They wanted me to go back to Fairbanks to have six weeks of chemo and radiation and hopefully the tumor would shrink.

It didn’t shrink and I was so afraid that they wouldn’t do the surgery because of its size and location, but both doctors assured me they would. They gave me HOPE.

So on January 12, I entered Swedish Medical Center for surgery, and from the very beginning, our experience there was wonderful. The care and concern of the doctors, nurses, and aides was exceptional.My surgery was to take 14 hours – Dr. Jay Williams dealing with the spine and Dr. Eric Vallieres dealing with the lung. They took out the large top of the left lung and second and third vertebrae, putting in titanium rods and screws.

My husband, Bill, and my brother, Ron, were taken to a room to themselves that had two couches, chairs, and a TV. They were kept up to date on the happenings in the surgery room every two hours. They were very pleased at being updated so often.

I had the very best medical care at the Swedish Medical Center in ICU and on the 10th floor – the spine floor. They were there for me in every way. I don’t remember all the names of the nurses and aides, but they are forever in my heart. I do remember Abdul on the spine floor, who had me walk every day more than once, and was so kind and caring and helpful.

Since my surgery on January 12, 2005, my husband Bill and I have celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in Hawaii with our family. In July 2006 I celebrated my 50th class reunion.

Life is good and I have HOPE.

I continue my check-ups, CT scans, and so on at Swedish with Dr. Jay Williams and Dr. Eric Vallieres.

Dr. Williams and Dr. Vallieres and their miracle-working hands and knowledge, and the wonderful care I received at Swedish, have given me HOPE.

They are my HEROES.

Thanks ever so much.

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