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Your attitude towards your health plays a big role throughout your recovery. For Gail Jones-Stephenson, she found that a positive attitude, strong support system, and dedicated care can make all the difference.
In May 2014, at her annual exam, Gail’s doctor noticed something on her x-ray that just didn’t look right. After doing a CAT scan, a spot was identified on the right lobe of her lungs. She was sent to Dr. Daniel Ouellette who ordered additional CAT scans. Later in December a PET scan was recommended. The PET scan lit up -- which typically indicated cancer. a bronchoscopy was performed at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit confirming that Gail had lung cancer.
Within two weeks, she had surgery scheduled with thoracic surgeon, Dr. Miguel Alvelo-Rivera. “Everything moved fast,” Gail said. “No one dragged their feet.” On February 26, Gail had surgery to remove the upper and middle lobe of her right lung. Unfortunately, her condition was worse than the doctors originally anticipated and they experienced complications. The bottom lobe of her right lung collapsed and the team had to insert a stent and put her on a ventilator in order to help her breathe. "Dr. Cynthia Ray saved what was left of my lung and possibly my life. The Henry Ford Health System is going to really miss her and her talents," she said, noting Dr. Ray's recent passing from injuries sustained when she heroically stopped to assist people in a car accident and was hit by another car just this past April.
In the end, Gail spent 23 days in the hospital recovering. Months later, Gail was told that they did not expect her to make it after surgery. She remembers coming in and out of consciousness surrounded by concerned and caring family members and thinking she was going to die. Spoiler alert: Gail prevailed! Throughout the whole experience, Gail was happy to be in a place where people treated her like a person, not a patient. “From housekeeping all the way up, these people were the kindest people I have ever dealt with,” she said. “I cannot express to the medical staff how much that means to me.”
The following April, Gail returned to see Dr. Rivera and her case was presented to the tumor board, where it was determined that she had stage 3 lung cancer. Unfortunately, small spots of cancer were still present on Gail’s lungs. Chemotherapy was her best bet for ridding the cancer from her body and she was referred to Henry Ford oncologist, Dr. Igor Rybkin. Before starting chemo, the doctors called her in and walked her through the process. Now that she has completed chemo, Gail goes in for CAT scans and to see Dr. Rybkin every six months to make sure that the cancer does not return.
In the end, the staff that added a personal touch helped her get through and made even the worst days of her treatment better. They still remember her and make sure to check in every time she visits the hospital for appointments. “I cannot say enough about these people,” while describing her care team. “They were such a support system for me.”. . Gail says she is thrilled that she made the decision to stick with Henry Ford throughout her cancer treatment. Living in West Branch, many thought she was crazy for making the 160-mile drive to Detroit, but she was confident that this was where she needed to be. “This is where my faith is -- my trust.”
Although Gail’s experience with cancer was less than ideal, her positivity helped her get through it. “I believe God and prayer played a BIG part of this whole experience for me,” she said. Gail looks on the bright side of everything and because of that attitude, she is doing well. She is glad she can still enjoy things like spending time with her family, reading, and enjoying the outdoors.
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