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Lucretia Montanaro

Beating Lung Cancer

Holy Name Cancer Center - Lucretia Montanaro

No one wants to hear the word cancer, but for Lucretia Montanaro, the diagnosis was horrific. She had already lost her sister, father and 31-year-old son to different types of cancer and facing it at 60 years old was almost more than she could bear.

"It was just horrible – it consumed all my thoughts," she said. "I had no hope at all."

Lucretia's lung cancer diagnosis happened by accident in September 2017. She had a herniated disk in her neck and her chiropractor recommended a CT scan before starting treatment. The scan stretched far enough to pick up a mass in her lung.

Further tests showed Lucretia had stage 4 lung cancer, with three tumors in her lungs – one more than 2 and ½ half inches wide – and one on her hip. She was referred to specialists who have expertise in lung cancer at Holy Name Medical Center.

"I knew how bad the cancer diagnosis was – I was so down when I met with my doctors," Lucretia said. "But they were so uplifting and had such a firm belief that I could beat this that when I left the office I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. They took such time and had so much patience with me – I felt like I was the only patient."

Initially, the doctors weren't sure surgery was an option for Lucretia. First, they wanted to shrink the tumors. Lucretia started on immunotherapy – medications that harness the immune system into fighting the cancer cells – while she received chemotherapy and then radiation. She started treatment in October 2017 and was thrilled when she didn't lose her hair or feel very sick. In fact, she never missed a day in her job as a sales manager for a storage facility.

"I had been in the hospital years before with a problem with my lung and I can't believe how much the technology and equipment has improved," Lucretia said. "Even when you have to have scans done, they make you so much more comfortable now."

In August 2018, Lucretia learned there remained only "a wisp of a tumor" and she was a good candidate for surgery to remove it. She was elated.

A month later, Lucretia underwent a 5-and-½-hour surgery with Dr. Ignatioz Zairis, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at Holy Name. He told her the procedure went better than expected. He removed about 25 percent of her lung but he was able to take out all the cancer and her lymph nodes and edges were all clear. Lucretia was cancer free.

"The whole thing went very smoothly – everyone, the nurses, technicians, they were all great," Lucretia said. "You're so vulnerable when you're in a hospital and they were all so attentive and understanding. I'm still working on getting my strength back but I feel good and I'm so happy that they were able to get rid of the cancer."

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