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Lung Cancer Won't Define Shirley's Life

Lung Cancer Won't Define Shirley's Life

This is a story about Shirley—a wife and mother who loves making the most of life and spending time with her family and friends. Her cancer diagnosis caught her off guard, but she didn’t let it control her life.

Shirley was a relatively healthy person, but suddenly she found herself dealing with unusual headaches. After a visit to the emergency room and undergoing a CT scan, the news was stunning: There were lesions on her brain. Further diagnostics revealed that Shirley had lung cancer that had spread to her brain. “I remember thinking, it’s not possible. I just hiked the weekend before for two hours, and I had a clean bill of health at my last physical,” she recalls. But that was all in the past. It was time to focus on the present.

Looking for the right treatment plan led Shirley to the El Camino Hospital Cancer Center. In her husband Bob and sister Kelly’s research, they found El Camino Hospital to be the only one in the area willing to share success rates of cancer treatments. Shirley found that level of honesty and transparency to be reassuring. The usual course of treatment for the metastatic cancer in her brain was whole brain radiation. While potentially effective, it also brought into play the possibility of early onset dementia. With the help of Dr. Shane Dormady and Dr. Robert Sinha, ultimately she decided on a combination of chemotherapy and CyberKnife radiation treatment which targeted the tumors with precision and spared her brain tissue.

Lung Cancer Won't Define Shirley's Life | El Camino Health

Lung Cancer Won't Define Shirley's Life | El Camino Health

Shirley’s treatments were effective, exceeding the expectations of her doctor. She remembers the day when her oncologist told her that “a miraculous event had occurred.” Buoyed by the support of her family and friends, Shirley was in remission. She returns to the Cancer Center every few weeks for maintenance chemo, but it doesn’t feel like treatment for cancer. “I tell my friends it’s time for my spa day,” she says with delight. Shirley can’t say enough good things about the nurses and staff at the Cancer Center. Without fail, they always make her feel welcome and treat her with the warmth and compassion usually reserved for good friends.

When asked what she would say to others in a similar situation, Shirley is an advocate for El Camino Hospital. “Without the treatment I’ve received at El Camino Hospital, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. Also, I just say, continue to live life. I’ve been in recovery for many, many years, and I think a lot of my attitude comes from that. But as they say, continue to make lemonade out of lemons,” Shirley says.

Shirley is doing just that. Whether it’s hiking outdoors or camping with Bob, going on shopping trips with her friends and daughter or spending some time alone doing yoga or Pilates, Shirley is embracing every moment of every day. “I feel like I still have a long life to live. And El Camino Hospital has given me that long life to continue to live,” she says with pride.

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