Yvette Garity had tried to quit smoking on her own, but it just wasn’t working. So, in 2003, after 42 years as a smoker, Garity enrolled in the smoking cessation program at AAMC. As it turns out, that program may have saved her life.
The coordinator of the cessation program, Sue Glover, R.N., recognized that the 58 year-old Edgewater resident’s smoking history suggested a high risk for developing lung cancer. She recommended Yvette for the Lung Screening program. “I thought, that’s good,” Yvette said, “because I will be able to see how much my lungs have improved by quitting smoking.”
But on the first scan, they found it, the early stages of lung cancer. Within weeks, doctors had removed half of her left lung. “I had no reason to suspect anything,” Yvette said. “If I had not decided to participate in the cessation program, I would not have been recommended for the screening, and they would not have found my cancer early.”
“Lung cancer often has few or no symptoms in the early stages,” said Stephen Cattaneo, M.D., “But our best shot of clearing a patient of lung cancer, is to find it early.” That’s why Dr. Cattaneo urges smokers and patients with a history of smoking to talk to their doctors about their risks and ask if the lung screening program is right for them.
“Cancer isn’t just something that happens to other people,” Yvette said. “It can happen to you, and by the time you realize or feel any symptoms, it may be far more difficult to treat.”
Yvette was lucky the doctors found her cancer early. She has been cancer free since August of 2003. By the summer of 2012, she had just completed the relay for life, and was preparing to retire from her position as an executive assistant in the Maryland Judiciary. “I’m starting to relax and enjoy life,” she said, adding that she has saved all of her smoking money for cruises. “I’ve been cruising every year for the past five years.” With that extra money, and a cancer-free take on life Yvette cruised to St. Thomas for her nephew’s wedding, and then again to watch her son tie the knot as well.
“I have a new appreciation for life,” she said. “Every day is a gift.”