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Living with Lung Cancer

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“You have to have a positive outlook to have a positive outcome.”

While that may not be the easiest advice to live by for a cancer patient, Brenda Wileman’s strong faith in God and self has allowed her to overcome life’s obstacles, one chemotherapy and radiation treatment at a time.

Livingston resident Wileman was diagnosed with lung cancer in the Fall of 2012, and she shared her story during Lung Cancer Awareness Month, recognized in November each year.

It started as bronchitis; a severe case of racking coughs that left her exhausted and rapidly losing weight. The Livingston resident sought out her family practitioner who referred her to Memorial Medical Center-Livingston for a CT scan. Tiny spots showed up, two in her upper left lung and one close to her windpipe. Thinking the small spots might be scar tissue from the bronchitis, Wileman began to see Dr. Abraham Cheriyan, a local pulmonologist, at his office in Livingston. However, the results from a PET scan and biopsy at Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin revealed her worst fear – lung cancer. Because the cancer was located so close to her windpipe, the doctors told her it was inoperable.

“My sister died of lung cancer three years ago, and I said I would never go through what she did,” Wileman said. “I didn’t decide that I was going to do the treatments until the first morning I was supposed to go to chemo. My daughter told me she wouldn’t make me go, but told me to get it together and decide. So I went.”

Wileman is in the midst of her fight against cancer. She will undergo a total of seven weeks of chemotherapy and 35 treatments of radiation concurrently.

“It has gone so well; I’ve been so blessed,” Wileman said. “I haven’t had any nausea, and the doctor doesn’t think I will lose my hair. I’ve really bonded with my medical oncologist Dr. Bramham Reddy and Dr. (Sid) Roberts, the radiation oncologist at the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center. They give it to me straight.”

She said her children – two sons and a daughter – and her nine grandchildren continue to keep her grounded and motivate her. She said she especially leaned on their support when just a few days into her cancer treatments, on November 5, Wileman’s husband of 41 years died after his own battle with Alzheimer’s and dementia. 

“My support group is out of this world,” Wileman said with a smile. “They really keep me going. And I remember what my husband would always say. Through any illness I ever had, he would say, ‘Forge on and get well.’”

And that’s just what she intends to do, she said.

Wileman said she has been blessed by the friends she has met while staying at the Joe W. Elliott House during the week.

“So many positive things have come from my illness,” Wileman said. “But mostly, I’ve learned that you have to be kind to yourself. As a woman, when you’ve been the caregiver or the mom all this time, it’s hard to turn that loose. Don’t get me wrong, I have my moments where I wonder, ‘Why me?’ but you have to focus on the happy moments. You’ve got to have faith in God, and then put that faith in yourself.”

According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women, and it is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

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