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Survivor Interview – May T.

May is a lung cancer survivor. She discusses the importance of exercise in her survivorship experience and her fear of recurrence.

A senior woman with dark curly hair, glasses, and green patterned clothing is interviewed against a black background.

In November, I went to Phoenix to my daughter’s for Thanksgiving. While I was there, I didn’t know I had a urine infection. I thought that’s just from my age that I don’t feel good. When I came back, I got really sick for one week. I didn’t come to clinic because I thought it was the flu. Even though I got better, I went to clinic on a Monday. The doctor took an X-ray, blood test, and then showed me there was a spot on my lung, and he gave me medication for ten days. He said, “If that spot is still there, I’m gonna have to send you to Anchorage. It could be cancer.” So he sent me, and they took tests. I had surgery January 10, and all my family was there.

I don’t have any side effects. Right after my surgery, I had no feeling on my right side where the cancer was, but it came back.

I have a big scar on my back. They had to take one rib off to get to that cancer. She said it was the size of a golf ball. That’s how big the cancer was. When I wake up, my doctor said, “I took all of it out. You won’t need any chemo.” I was in the hospital for a week, and I came home a week later.

I was exercising a lot. My right arm finally got a lot of its strength back just from exercising. I do a lot of snow machining. I’m real active, like berry picking in the summertime, camping and fishing. I went fishing nine weeks after my surgery. One side was still weak, and I was catching those great, big fish at the mouth of the Notack River. That day, I got 50 of them. After I pulled my big fish out, I’d lay on the ice and rest. I just keep active after my surgery and do a lot of exercise.

Every time I have a little pain on this side or if I can’t swallow good, I think, “What if that cancer came back? What if another cancer shows up somewhere in my body?” I still worry about it. I come to clinic for some reason, and they take X-rays and blood tests. Nothing shows up, and that makes me so happy. I’m still scared it still might show up somewhere.

I just keep on going and keep exercising, stay active, walking, go out berry picking, and fishing. That’s what I did. I’m just now getting my strength back in my right arm. Before, I couldn’t reach over to the car door and close it. I have to use both hands. Now after three years, I’m able to reach over there and close that door. Finally. I was with my granddaughter, and I said, “Melissa. Look! I closed the door with my right hand!”

My name is May Thompson, and I’m a three-year lung cancer survivor.

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