Sam G. – Lung Cancer Patient Story
"I know God put the right people in my pathway."
Sam describes herself as a "walking, talking, testifying miracle." Her health care experience over a six-month period can explain why.
After taking a trip to Florida with her husband and encountering long flight delays on the way home, Sam developed a bad cough. Thinking she might have gotten COVID-19 from long hours sitting at the airport, she went to the emergency department. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and given a prescription.
A month later, the cough still hadn't gone away. Sam called her primary care physician, Charles Gerlach, MD. Dr. Gerlach looked at her scans and told her that in addition to her pneumonia, she had a mass in her lung. He referred her to Troy Allen Moritz, DO, who performed a biopsy on the mass.
"A few days later, he gave me a call and asked me how I was doing after the biopsy," Sam says. "I told him I felt good. I'd been coughing up a lot of phlegm since the biopsy. My chest wasn't as tight.
“He said, 'I'm glad to hear that. But you have fourth-stage lung cancer that's spreading.'
"Right away, I asked him, 'Are you talking to the right person?' And he said, 'Yes, it's you, Sam.'"
Sam, a faith-based woman, says she prayed for guidance about what to do. She decided to keep her care at UPMC West Shore instead of going somewhere else.
“From the very beginning, I told all of my doctors, 'Just so you know, I'm going to be obedient, and I know God put the right people in my pathway,'" she says.
More scans showed that Sam had a mass in her brain. Worried that meant the cancer had spread to her brain, doctors scheduled her for emergency brain surgery. Scans also revealed she had problems with her spine and would need spinal surgery a week after her brain surgery.
Despite everything, Sam says she approached her challenges with a positive attitude.
"I believe there's a silver lining in everything, so I try to remember that," she says. "And the last thing I want to do is fall apart, and have my kids falling apart and my husband falling apart. I felt like I had to at least be strong for them and just believe that this is not going to be a death sentence, that this is just another sentence in a testimony for me."
Both the brain surgery and spinal surgery were successful. Sam went home the day after each procedure with no major complications. The tumor in her brain wasn't cancerous, confirming that her lung cancer was stage III — not stage IV.
After recovering from her two surgeries, Sam began chemotherapy for her lung cancer. She had a port placed in her chest and went through three months of extensive chemo. Again, she experienced very few side effects.
The chemotherapy was effective, shrinking the tumor enough that doctors could perform a lobectomy. They removed the lobe of her left lung where the cancer was.
Today, Sam is cancer-free. She's thankful for the care she received across the board at UPMC in Central Pa.
"I was impressed with how the doctors worked together and the care they gave me," she says. "Every time I went to the hospital, it was just so quick. I didn't even have a chance to really worry about a whole lot of stuff because they were so efficient. Everybody acted like they were my family, like they knew me."
Sam is back to spending time with her husband, two daughters, and three grandchildren. She says she believes her positive attitude helped her, and she advises other people to stay positive through adversity.
“I would tell them, first of all, that they have some faith and believe that this is not a death sentence for them," she says. "I would definitely tell them that as these reports and test results came in, it doesn't mean it's the end. Test results can be changed."
Sam didn't choose to have cancer, but she did choose UPMC.
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