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September Survivor Spotlight - Betty Duel

  • September 21 2016

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    September Survivor Spotlight - Betty Duel
    Betty Duel is our featured survivor of the month for September.

    I had a cough that didn’t seem normal. Sometimes I would choke just trying to drink water. My friends didn’t like the way I sounded. In late June 2011, I had gone to an ear/nose/throat specialist to see if he could determine any other reason for the cough and choking, or why my voice was sounding different. He told me that my vocal cord was paralyzed, possibly from neck surgery I had undergone in October 2010.

    I work for a great company that actively promotes wellness – we are very lucky employees. The perks include an on-site gym offering a variety of workout classes, sessions with personal trainers and regular health screenings. I went for a screening in August 2011, figuring that my fatigue and other issues were just normal parts of aging. Since my favorite classes at the gym start at 6:15 AM, and I put in my 8-hour workday after an early-morning workout, I should be tired, right?

    However, the results showed a high white blood count and a kidney infection, and I was treated with antibiotics and told to return to my regular doctor for further testing. My ear/nose/throat doctor ordered an x-ray of my chest and found pneumonia. All right, that explained a lot – the fatigue, the cough, the shortness of breath. Oh, I didn’t mention my shortness of breath, did I? I couldn’t breathe, and that seemed odd for someone who worked out as much as I did.

    I started feeling better in about a week and went back to work. But a few days later, I felt run down and sick again. I went back to the doctor, who told me it takes time to get over pneumonia and I needed yet another round of antibiotics and more rest. Another week went by, and I still had no energy, so I decided to see another doctor. She ran quite a few tests, and told me everything was fine. I argued, “NO, it’s not – there is something wrong with me. After three rounds of antibiotics I should feel better.”

    In early October, I had a CT scan, which showed I was right – there was something going on besides pneumonia. I was sent to a pulmonary physician, who biopsied my lung and found cancer. On October 31, 2011, the cancer and 2/3 of my right lung were removed.

    I still have shortness of breath when I work out, but you can bet I’m in the gym every day I can possibly get there. I’m so blessed that I had people who wouldn’t let me stop asking questions until I found the doctor who would listen to me.

    Listen to your body when it is trying to tell you that there’s something wrong. Lung cancer is a quiet disease. It can sneak up on people; they just don’t know it’s lurking. Go for your checkups and if you don’t feel right, tell your doctor.

    One of the first questions I’m asked when I tell people that I’ve had lung cancer is, "Were you a smoker?” That frustrates me. Yes, I did smoke, but I had quit a long time ago. My sweet aunt, who never smoked a day in her life, died of lung cancer in 2005. I’ve met so many lung cancer survivors who have never smoked. Lung cancer does not care who you are, or what you have done or not done. It's cancer.

    Free to Breathe came into my life in 2011. I looked for something – anything – to do with lung cancer and I discovered there had just been a Free to Breathe walk in Austin. The next year I signed up and formed my team, “Betty’s Lung Rangers,” for my first walk as a survivor.

    As the day of the walk approached, I was excited to go and meet other survivors. There were only two of us, which really opened my eyes to just how truly lucky I was to have survived such a deadly disease. Last year, we had seven survivors. Today, I’m very excited to say that this is the 6th year for the Austin Free to Breathe walk, and we are going to have more survivors and more walkers than ever before. I hope you join a Free to Breathe event in your own area to help raise awareness and funding for research.  

    Do you want to connect with other lung cancer survivors or caregivers? Visit our HealthUnlocked Support Community to share your story and connect with others.



  1. Maemcdonald 12:45pm, 10/04/2016

    My life Mary McConnell has lung cancer stage 4

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