Sometimes, cancer comes without any warning. There are no symptoms; no understanding of the cause; and the diagnosis is made by chance. That happened to Larry Koslow. Twice.
In 2000, he and his wife, Keri, were watching their son Evan at a cross-country track competition near their home in New Jersey and he suffered excruciating pain that required an immediate trip to the Emergency Room. The diagnosis: diverticulitis.
As part of the routine procedure, he had a chest X-ray, and, to his family’s shock, they saw a mass on his lung. It was a small hospital, and, unfortunately, the pulmonologist quickly forecasted a much-shortened life expectancy.
Because of the infection that caused the diverticulitis, he was not able to pursue treatment until December. But when he did, he chose a hospital that had a much more advanced cancer treatment program: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. His surgeon, whom he continues to see to this day, removed one-third of the lower right lobe of the lung, and gave him a much more promising prognosis: he was cancer free. And, although today a round of chemotherapy might follow that surgery, that was not the protocol then, so he had virtually no post-operative care.
But, even after moving to Atlanta, he was very careful to return to Sloan Kettering every 6 months for a cat scan to assure that there were no further lung cancer issues. At his visit in 2004, the scan did show something, but it was totally unrelated to the lung cancer: a tumor they had been monitoring on the thymus gland had suddenly grown. Once again, luck was on his side, and surgery resolved the issue.
Larry was lucky in many ways. The companies he worked for were very understanding, had great insurance coverage, and supported him during his time off. He has the means and the insurance coverage to travel to his choice of hospitals and physicians. And his cancer was diagnosed early and resolved relatively quickly.
But a cancer diagnosis is never treated lightly. Keri insists on follow-up more often than the physicians recommend, because you can never be sure. Larry was not a smoker and though his father, who was a heavy smoker, had prostate cancer, it wasn’t diagnosed until after Larry’s cancers were discovered. His reduced lung capacity has not been an issue; in the short term, he was occasionally short of breath, but in the long term, he’s only felt the impact when doing more strenuous walks.
There was nothing he could have done to prevent getting cancer, but he does feel that going to a world-class cancer center and physician saved his life. That, plus being vigilant about continued monitoring, even now, 17 years since his first diagnosis.
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