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A Breath of Being Cancer-Free

Lung cancer patient grateful for same-day diagnosis and treatment

A Breath of Being Cancer-Free
A Breath of Being Cancer-Free
A big thumbs up during Llyod Warner’s last chemotherapy treatment at Hall-Perrine Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids. (Submitted photo)

“You have cancer.” Those three words are life-altering, anxiety-sparking and terrifying. For most patients, treating the cancer can’t come fast enough. So, when a treatment plan is quickly developed, it turns into lifesaving relief.

When Lloyd Warner started coughing up specks of blood, he knew it was time to visit his primary care physician, Vincent Taeger, MD, at MercyCare North Liberty. After an on-site X-ray scan, Dr. Taeger saw nothing abnormal, but because Lloyd was coughing up specks of blood he scheduled a CT scan at Mercy.

After multiple tests and a CT scan, a spot was found on Lloyd’s bronchial tube — which lets air in and out of the lungs as you breathe. To determine if there were other areas of concern, Dr. Taeger referred Lloyd to the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center.

Lloyd had a PET scan to see where/if the cancer had spread and a brain MRI to see if it had spread to his brain. When lung cancer spreads, it most commonly goes to the brain. The scans concluded there was a spot on his lymph node in his right lung.

While the testing period was a whirlwind, Lloyd was grateful that the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center scheduled him for all his tests so quickly.

After a biopsy was completed, Lloyd was diagnosed with Stage 3A squamous cell cancer by Medical Oncologist/Hematologist Samuel Wood, MD.

“Squamous cell cancer is one of the more common types of lung cancer,” Dr. Wood said. “There are four stages with Stage 4 being the most challenging to treat.”

Dr. Wood explained the treatment plan — chemotherapy and radiation, followed by a year of immunotherapy — and offered Lloyd to start treatment that same day to which Lloyd said, “There’s no better time than now.”

As a smoker for 53 years, Lloyd quit smoking on the first day of treatment.

Lloyd began chemotherapy and radiation in December 2019 and completed both treatments in February 2020 at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center. He came in once a week for six weeks for chemotherapy and every weekday for seven weeks for radiation treatments.

“I thought if I was going through this at a larger hospital, I’d probably have to walk half a mile to get to radiation,” Lloyd said. “But, at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, the reserved parking area for radiation is only 100 feet from the radiation department, and I’m in there very quickly and on my way back home in minutes.”

He then began immunotherapy in March 2020 and completed it a year later in March 2021. Immunotherapy is a treatment that helps the immune system respond, as well as teaches it to identify and destroy cancer cells.

Lloyd only lives 22 minutes away from the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, so it was relatively easy to travel back and forth for his treatments. He appreciated being able to park directly next to the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center.

“Everything was so convenient, and everyone was so nice and helpful,” Lloyd said. “I just can’t say enough about the people that helped treat me; they were great, and I really appreciate it.”

During the 15 months of treatment, Lloyd never missed an appointment, even the day after the derecho.

He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get to the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center because of all the trees that were down, but he took a chance and made it safely. Lloyd received his immunotherapy treatment as scheduled, even as the hospital was running on generator power. Cancer doesn’t wait — and neither does the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center, even under unusual circumstances.

Now, Lloyd comes in every six months and will for the next five years for a CT scan. At his most recent CT scan, his results were stable with no changes — exactly what he wanted to hear!

In addition to his cancer journey, Dr. Wood also informed Lloyd that he has myelodysplastic syndrome.

“Myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, is a condition that affects the bone marrow, which is where red blood cells are produced,” Dr. Wood said. “In early stages, it does not need treatment and can be observed by routine lab checks to monitor the patient’s number of red blood cells.”

Lloyd appreciated being informed that he has it and being able to ask Dr. Wood — a hematologist — about it. For now, Dr. Wood continues to monitor Lloyd’s condition and lab results.

Lloyd Warner rings the bell as he celebrates his last radiation treatment at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center in Cedar Rapids. (Submitted photo)

If you’re a smoker or have lung concerns, the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center has a lung cancer screening program that’s generally covered by insurance as a preventive service. If you meet the criteria, you can call your primary care provider at any time to set up an appointment and receive an order for a lung screening. The screening consists of a CT or image that’s taken of the chest.