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Breathing Easier: Darryle Cook Bounces Back From Early-Stage Lung Cancer

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D Cooke Lung Cancer

East Stroudsburg resident Darryle Cook was enjoying his retirement in 2020. After more than three decades of teaching middle and high school, he was happy to spend his days completing online religious studies and working on home improvement projects.

During a routine checkup, Cook was encouraged to get a lung cancer screening. As a smoker for many decades, he knew lung cancer was a risk, but he wasn’t too worried.

“I wasn’t having any symptoms,” Cook says. “But when I thought more about it, I realized that I didn’t have anything to lose.”

So, Cook made an appointment for a low-dose computed tomography (CT) scan. Unfortunately, the results weren’t what he was expecting.

Lung cancer screening and multidisciplinary evaluation lead to successful recovery

A familiar diagnosis

The screening test found a small tumor between two lobes of Cook’s right lung. Further evaluation and a biopsy determined that it was lung cancer.

“I was in complete disbelief and very scared,” Cook says. “My mom had passed away from lung cancer in 2004, and when she was diagnosed, there wasn’t much that could be done.”

While he was incredibly concerned, one detail of his diagnosis gave him hope. Cook’s pulmonologist, Khemraj Sedani, MD, with LVPG Pulmonology, determined that the cancer was early stage and had not spread to other parts of his body.

He was quickly referred to a team of specialists at Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute to be evaluated and treated.

Individualized treatment

During Cook’s first visit with his cancer care team, he met with cardiothoracic surgeon Laszlo Fuzesi, MD, with LVPG Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, radiation oncologist H. Jaideep Neboori, MD, with Allentown Radiation Oncology Associates, and hematologist/medical oncologist Dipen Patel, MD, with LVPG Hematology Oncology.

“If we can catch cancer before its leaves its primary origin, the chance to cure it is so much higher,” says Fuzesi.

Together, the multidisciplinary clinic team helped Cook and his wife better understand his diagnosis and potential treatments. Because his cancer was caught early, there were more options available and a better chance for a successful outcome.

“Cancer starts in a particular part of the body, but it tends to spread. If it spreads, even just a little bit, the prognosis can change dramatically,” Fuzesi says. “If we can catch cancer before its leaves its primary origin, the chance to cure it is so much higher.”

Cook’s care team determined that surgery would be the best course of action and could provide the best chance for cure. Fuzesi performed an operation to remove the tumor and its surrounding tissue in June 2021, which resulted in the removal of two lobes from Cook’s right lung.

After six days in the hospital, Cook returned home to start his recovery. His care team helped him manage his side effects (including nerve pain) and the adjustment to his new lung capacity.

Looking forward

Darryle Cook

In July 2021, Cook’s scans showed no evidence of cancer, and while he will still be followed closely for the next five years, he feels confident about the future.

“After meeting with my cancer doctors for the first time, I felt very comfortable and knew they were very knowledgeable,” Cook says. “I feel a lot better knowing that I have a full team of experts behind me every step of the way. I know if I ever need additional treatment, they will be ready.”

Now, Cook is back to enjoying his favorite hobbies and traveling with his wife. In fact, less than three months after his procedure, they flew to Las Vegas for a vacation.

“I couldn’t believe that I was able to fly, walk around the hot climate and enjoy myself so soon after the surgery. That is a testament to the great job my doctors did,” Cook says.

He also works to educate others on the risks of smoking and the importance of lung cancer screening for those who are eligible.

“As soon as I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I worked hard and quit before my surgery,” he says. “Now that I am smoke-free, I try to encourage others to quit and get screened because it could save their lives. It definitely saved mine.”

 

Lehigh Valley Topper Cancer Institute 

We bring together providers of the highest caliber to better predict, prevent and treat cancer. Our team of cancer experts works together to deliver today’s most effective treatments while researching the next generation of cancer care options.

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