June is a time when many people enjoy a host of summer celebrations. It’s also National Cancer Survivor Month, a call for celebrating.
People who have fought and won their battles with cancer observe this month as a way to spread the word about the disease and advocate for screenings and preemptive care.
Dr. Susie Lawrence is the residency director for Wayne State University’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Lawrence was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2019. She quit smoking roughly 10 years before her diagnosis.
“So I’ll sometimes sort of half wake up in the morning and reach over to my bedside table to grab a pack cigarette. … Fourteen years later, almost 15 years later, and I still do that. So it’s a tough thing to quit, but I would highly recommend.” — Dr. Susie Lawrence
“So I’ll sometimes sort of half wake up in the morning and reach over to my bedside table to grab a pack cigarette,” Lawrence says. “Fourteen years later, almost 15 years later, and I still do that. So it’s a tough thing to quit, but I would highly recommend.”
However, before her diagnosis, Lawrence had an intimate connection with the disease through her late father, who passed away in 1995. She says she holds on to the good memories of her late father during his battle with cancer.
“One of the things that was sort of a very vivid memory of his last days was that the choir would come over every Sunday after church,” Lawrence recalls. “And they would sing. They would sing hymns from the old hymnal.”
She says the cancer and treatment were very hard on his body and on the entire family. She said thanks to the church, along with family, a community was created to aid her father in his time of need.
“So there were four or five men in the parish, who he called them his bed buddies, they would come at 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock at night, and they would spend the night with him sort of as as watchers. And if he needed anything, get it for him.”
More than 20 years after her father’s battle with lung cancer, Lawrence found herself in the same shoes. She says getting screened by a nurse practitioner was the first step in saving her life.
Lawrence had been a 38-year smoker, with a cough, which she thought was normal. She says with no other symptoms, she never would have gotten checked out if the nurse hadn’t asked about a detailed health history, including a family history.
“The fact that I was in the screening program, I was totally asymptomatic,” she says. “People with lung cancer often are until it’s quite advanced. The screening and the timing of it happening really are what I would attribute my survival.”
Once enrolled in the cancer screening program through Karmanos Cancer Institute, Lawrence began cancer screenings every six months. In 2019, she was diagnosed with Stage 1-b Lung cancer. It was caught early. Two and a half years later, she’s cancer free.
“I was very fortunate that there was no lymph node involvement there. There was no metastasis, no spread. And aside from the physical recovery, I really haven’t had any problems.”
Listen: Dr. Susie Lawrence recalls her late father and her personal story surviving lung cancer.