Danny’s Story: Living With Metastatic Pancoast Lung Cancer

by | Sep 24, 2021 | Best Cancer Doctors, Lung Cancer

“It started with a pain in Danny’s shoulder. It wasn’t bad but it was persistent and wouldn’t go away so after a couple of weeks I told my husband he better get it checked,” says Melissa Jo Roger.

“We live north of Lafayette, Louisiana on a farm with cattle and work on Deep Water Oil Platforms for an oil company in Houston so it wouldn’t be unusual pulling a muscle on the job, which is what we thought he did, but soon got heartbreaking news.”

Danny started seeing a doctor in Houston who ordered an MRI because Danny was a smoker. The scan showed a large Pancoast Lung Tumor in the upper right lobe invading his chest wall, ribs, shoulder nerves, bones and spread to his lymph nodes and adrenal gland.

Pancoast tumors are rare and very aggressive lung tumors. Although once considered fatal, today Pancoast tumors are treatable, though not yet curable. Treatment for a Pancoast tumor depends on how early it is diagnosed, how far it has spread, the areas involved, and your general state of health. The survival rate associated with this type of cancer is typically 30% to 50% after five years.

Melissa, who most often speaks for her quiet husband says, “Hearing you have cancer is devastating. Especially cancer that cannot be cured and the doctors in Houston did not break it to us gently. They were terrible. That was in October of 2019. Danny was 55 years old. The doctor said the large tumor was inoperable, you must do chemo, 45 days of radiation and you have about a year to live. She showed no compassion. Giving us no other options, but what they chose. They also knew we had good insurance and were sending him for all kinds for unnecessary tests.”

“Danny is very active and did not want to go through a lot of chemo and radiation. Plus, at the time we were both still trying to work and they would’t work around our schedule. They would call at the last minute and say you must come in now. If we couldn’t make it, they would say, if you cancel, we won’t treat you here. We were just another number to them it seemed. On top of all that, they lost Danny’s biopsy, so he needed another one. We were fed up and decided to find another hospital and look for other treatment options.”

“My daughter who’s a doctor was also appalled by their behavior and said, we’re going to figure out what treatment he needs and do it with a doctor back home in Louisiana.”

“In the meantime, I was researching on the internet other treatment options for the big lung tumor and discovered CyberKnife Radiation Therapy. Everything I read about it and what patients said was good and it could be done with only 3-to-5 treatment sessions.”

“The Houston hospitals don’t have CyberKnife and the other medical centers I called that do, including one in Lafayette, LA wouldn’t treat Danny because they said the tumor was too big. I called all over the country trying to find a doctor that would treat him with Cyberknife.”

“I was beside myself, I was losing hope, one afternoon coming back home from Houston, I was driving in pouring rain, I got a call back from the CyberKnife Center of Miami. Gail Suarez, a radiation therapist and Vice President of Operations said they got Danny’s medical records and could treat that big tumor and it wouldn’t come back.”

“I swear, suddenly it stopped raining, the sky opened up and the sun was shining bright. I felt such an immense sense of peace, it was an answer to my prayers. Gail was so comforting. I knew this was the place to go and it would work so off we went to CyberKnife Miami to get treated and it was all so easy. Danny didn’t feel a thing during treatment and no side effects afterwards.”

Dr. Mark Pomper, Board Certified Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director at CyberKnife Miami says, “A lot of medical or cancer centers that have CyberKnife technology, don’t have as much experience as we have using it, so they get scared when they see a big tumor and think it is not worth treating or are worried about complications. Other doctors feel if it’s incurable why be aggressive?”

“They don’t think it’s worth the risk for patients like Danny, but if you don’t offer the patient anything there is more of a risk. This is what we do all day, every day. We know what can and cannot be treated. We looked at what we could do for Danny, his treatment was successful, and he could go a long time before he gets any complications. It’s defensive medicine.” 

Dr. Pomper adds, “We know it’s extraordinarily unlikely we can cure him, but we can give him quality of life while we extend his life. He is doing so well and can for years. It is a different philosophy that is emerging, and it seems to work. If it comes back, we can treat him again. It’s been a couple of years since his first treatment, and you don’t know how many new cancer treatments may come around as we are helping him live longer. You should never just write a patient off.”

Melissa says, “After the first Cyberknife treatment, Danny started with an oncologist in Lafayette for chemotherapy because the cancer was in two lymph nodes and a spot on his adrenal gland. We needed a new biopsy since the Houston hospital couldn’t locate the one they did and it showed, 30 days after the CyberKnife treatment that the cancer was gone. There was no sign of cancer. The pain he had was gone within two weeks of the CyberKnife treatment and hasn’t returned. It was the best Christmas present ever!”

”Danny did six rounds of chemo which killed three cancer spots but six months later they came back. The oncologist in Lafayette recommended more chemo but we chose CyberKnife to treat them. Dr. Pomper treated the two lymph nodes and less than 60 days later a pet scan showed they were cancer free. He had one remaining cancerous spot on his adrenal gland which is being treated now at CyberKnife Miami. If a tumor or cancer pops up anywhere in his body, we’ll be right back here for treatment.” 

Melissa adds, “CyberKnife sounded too good to be true, but I believed in what the patients who were treated had to say and now we’re believers. Even our oncologist in Lafayette and my daughter the doctor were amazed. We tell everyone we can about CyberKnife and to go for it. We can’t believe how many doctors don’t know about CyberKnife or don’t tell patients about it.” 

“The whole team at CyberKnife Miami is wonderful. You feel at ease with them. They give you confidence, they are like family, an absolute blessing to have found them. They are different, they don’t forget anything, are very conscientious and walk you through it every step of the way. The center is also easy to get to, easy to park and they are always right on time and they even follow up when you get home.”

“Dr. Pomper takes his time with patients. He spent more time examining Danny than all the doctors in Houston combined. He said nothing in life is guaranteed but we’re going to try to give you more time and it will be quality time. Other cancer centers tell you they have something like CyberKnife, but they don’t and the side effects of their radiation can be awful.”

“We fly into Miami and Gail makes sure we have that first appointment of the day. We stay in a nearby hotel and they are really good at helping us with arrangements. We have the routine down and after treatment we drive to the beaches, Florida Keys or Key West, something fun.”

“Both Danny and I have all the faith in the world in CyberKnife Miami and even the doctors in Louisiana knew Dr. Pomper’s excellent reputation in the world of oncology.”

“We have recommended CyberKnife to other people and they’ve been treated successfully. I brought back a bunch of brochures from CyberKnife Miami and pass them out to others coping with cancer. According to the doctors in Houston, Danny should have died in March. That was a year ago.”

“Danny is not a talker, but he’s a true believer and won’t go anywhere else but CyberKnife Miami. He has hope now. I see him happy and living life to the fullest. They’ve given us hope when we were in despair. The game plan is to take one day at a time and enjoy our family. We just went to Jamaica with the whole family and had a great time.”  

“There may come a day when there isn’t more we can do for Danny, but for as long as we can, we will try. We have five children between us and four grandchildren. We’re just simple country people, living a quiet, grateful, blessed and happy life.”

“I tell Gail and Dr. Pomper all the time, God sent you to us, this is the answer to our prayers. I know Danny’s time is in God’s hands, but I want as much time as I can get with him and CyberKnife Miami is giving us that precious gift.”

Call our cancer experts at CyberKnife Miami if we can help you 305-279-2900 & go to our website now for more info www.cyberknifemiami.com