Breath of Fresh Air

Lung Cancer Breath of Fresh AirWhen a patient is diagnosed with cancer, oftentimes the first tough decision they have to make is who to entrust for their medical treatment and care. But that wasn’t the case for Millersport resident and lung cancer survivor Barney Ankrom.

“I knew from the very beginning that I didn’t want to go anywhere but Fairfield Medical Center,” said Barney, 56. “Going to Columbus or somewhere else for my treatment never once entered my mind.”

Barney was familiar with FMC’s cancer services team, as his father had been treated for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma several years prior. He remembers how impressed he was with the dedicated, compassionate care that FMC oncologist Kanwaljit Singh, M.D. and the rest of the team provided to his dad, and he wanted those same people caring for him.

He also knew that he had to do some hard work of his own if he wanted to make a full recovery.

“The first time I met with Dr. Singh following my diagnosis, I told him, ‘I’m putting my life in your hands and, if you fix me, I’ll quit smoking',” Barney said.

Following six weeks of intense radiation that included 12 days of chemotherapy, Barney is now in remission – and has kept his promise. He knows that smoking was likely the cause of the cancer that nearly took his life, and has been tobacco-free since his diagnosis.

“My wife and I actually quit together,” Barney said. “I’m back to work and my activity level and weight are both up. I feel so much better.”

Barney said cancer was the last thing on his mind when he began experiencing a nagging chest pain and hard, labored breathing back in mid-February. He thought his symptoms might be related to the flu – but when they didn’t go away, he became concerned. At his wife Tami's urging, he went to Diley Ridge Medical Center in Canal Winchester. His heart checked out fine, but his lungs were a different story: a CAT scan revealed that he had stage 3 cancer.

“When I heard the diagnosis, it felt like the floor had fallen out from beneath me,” Barney said. “I immediately thought, ‘what will I tell my grandkids’?”

Barney scheduled an appointment with FMC pulmonologist Andrew Twehues, and then met with Dr. Singh. His treatment was aggressive – six weeks of radiation, five days a week.

 “Everyone involved in my care worked really well together,” Barney said. “Other than the PET scan that I had, everything was done right here on this campus, which makes it a lot more convenient for patients.”

Barney said each person on his treatment team went above and beyond to give him the best care possible. One of those individuals, oncology nurse navigator Holly Griffith, played an important role in ensuring that Barney understood every step of his treatment plan.

“Without Holly, I would have never gotten through this,” Barney said. “Every time I had a question, she found the answer.”

Barney also expressed gratitude for cardiothoracic surgeon Aryeh Cohen, M.D., who removed 12 lymph nodes and a portion of Barney’s lung during a lengthy surgery following his treatment.

“I can’t say enough about Dr. Cohen,” Barney said. “That surgery he did was not an easy one, but he did a fantastic job.”

Barney said his life has taken on a new meaning since he finished his treatment. He is now taking a proactive approach in educating others about the warning signs of lung cancer and the dangers of tobacco use.

“My advice to others would be to quit smoking and to not wait to get checked out if you are experiencing symptoms,” he said.