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Athens Lung Cancer Patient Urges Other Smokers to Quit

Athens, Ga. (Nov. 17, 2021) – Mike Robinson, a retired UPS driver and smoker for more than 40 years, loves to play golf. On Dec. 29, 2020, Robinson was on the second hole of the Lane Creek Golf Course when a doctor from Athens Pulmonology called with the news that the results of a recent low dose CT lung screening showed Robinson had cancer in the upper portion of his left lung. The doctor said he needed to come into the office soon.

“I literally fell to my knees right there on the golf course,” remembers Robinson. “The friends I was playing golf with that day were stunned, I just fell and they had no idea why. I really scared them for a few minutes.”

Somehow, Robinson played the rest of the front nine, but when they stopped at the club house for a break, he knew he had to go home. He had to tell his wife of 41 years, Sally, and his sons, Matt and Avery. But, he didn’t know what to tell them, yet. He didn’t know what was going to happen.

Robinson also didn’t know that at the Piedmont Athens Regional Chest Center, a lung cancer navigator had already reviewed his case and presented it before the Chest Conference, a multi-disciplinary committee that reviews all positive lung screenings and begins developing a comprehensive plan of care.

Not only were referrals to the pulmonologist being made, a surgeon had already reviewed and accepted his case should Robinson agree to surgery, and a medical oncologist had been consulted about treatment options. All the physicians needed was Robinson to give the go-ahead to start the fight.

“I could not believe how quickly everything was moving. I thought I was getting special treatment,” said Robinson. “My son is an ICU nurse at Piedmont Athens, so I kept thinking he must have pulled some strings, but he hadn’t. This is just the way the Chest Center operates. They coordinate everything so that nothing is forgotten.”

Twenty-four days later, Robinson had surgery to remove almost 70 percent of his left lung. Scans showed that the surgeon was able to remove all the cancer and that it had not spread to the lymph nodes.

“I was in intense, agonizing pain,” says Robinson. “Nothing helped. The narcotics they gave me made me really sick, but I thought it was what I deserved having smoked all those years. I just thought I had to endure it.”

When Robinson began chemotherapy in early March his treatment plan was an intense regimen of three chemo sessions followed by IV fluids to make sure his kidneys kept functioning.

“Chemo therapy takes you to the verge of death,” explains Robinson. “All of us, the patients, we’re the true heroes. We’ve decided to keep fighting, battling something we can’t see. And, although it nearly kills us, we keep fighting. The patients in the clinic with me, they are fighters.”

Robinson also met with a palliative care physician about his pain. He learned that major muscles had been cut to remove the lung causing nerve pain. Working with his physician, he has now found a treatment plan that has provided a good bit of relief from the pain although he still experiences tightness and numbness after a lot of activity.

Today, Robinson is 178 days cancer free. He is also proud to say that his last cigarette was on Jan. 19, 2021.

“I went out to the burn barrel on my property and threw the cigarettes in the fire,” remembers Robinson. “I was listening to and singing Tom Petty’s “No More”. “

Robinson still has a long road ahead. He is regaining his strength, regularly walks three miles a day and has started playing golf again. He is also now an advocate for health screenings.

“I was someone who didn’t want to know, but I did the screening for my family, for Sally,” said Robinson. “I’m so grateful that I did because I had no symptoms at the time. Once I did develop symptoms, it could have been too late to treat the cancer. I’m so grateful that it wasn’t too late.”

More than anything, Robinson hopes that his experience will help someone take the necessary steps to stop smoking. If you are ready to stop smoking, Piedmont Athens can help. Visit Smoking Cessation Resources and Information | Piedmont Healthcare.

For more information on the Piedmont Athens Regional Chest Center or low dose CT lung screenings, please call 706-475-5982.

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