Pat’s Thymic Carcinoma Story

I was diagnosed with thymic carcinoma in February 2020 at the age of 61.  I had gone to urgent care early that month with a cold and cough, thinking maybe I had the beginning of pneumonia.  The PA heard nothing in my chest to indicate that, but decided to do an X-ray anyway.  She came back in the room and told me to go straight to an emergency room for a CT scan.  I had no clue why.  That scan showed a large mass (over 5cm) in what they thought was my lung.  The ER Dr. was awful and came right out and told me I had lung cancer.  

This all led to quick visits with a thoracic surgeon and an oncologist. The surgeon thought right off that it was not in the lung but rather the thymus area.  Biopsy confirmed that it was cancer. PET scan confirmed location in thymus and that it had not spread (the first good news).  It was even larger than thought though.

The decision was to do two treatments of chemo to try and reduce the size of the mass (one Dr. suggested radiation up front too, but I got a second opinion and they disagreed). I received two sessions of taxol and carboplatin. They worked, and I got about 20% reduction in size, with main side effects being bone pain (the trick to solving that was taking Claritin for a few days before chemo to help with the day after Neulasta shot).  Due to the success, the decision was to do two more chemo treatments prior to surgery.  

Surgery was scheduled for June of 2020 ( right in the middle of the pandemic, so I had to go it alone).  My original thoracic surgeon was fluctuating on whether or not she could get a complete resection due to the proximity of the mass to some major arteries.  I took my case to Duke and their team reviewed it and said they thought they could get it all.  I switched to them.  They, in fact, were able to get the whole mass, but had to take the upper left lobe of my lung too.

Surgery was followed with 5 weeks of radiation to make sure any “bad” cells still hanging around were killed.

My 6 month check up and scan showed no cancer.  I will continue these for a couple of years and then go annually.  

Tip:  Get second and third opinions.  With this rare cancer, the doctors are happy to have others weigh in.  No feelings were ever hurt. They shared my scans and pathology reports amongst themselves.  Also, Be happy with your final selection of a surgeon.  Full resection is so important.  

I’m hoping to now stay in full remission.  This was definitely a challenging time for all of us.