In the Right Place at the Right Time: Globetrotting Lung Cancer Survivor Shares Story of Recovery at UW Carbone
As a filmmaker and television producer who has lived and travelled all over the world, Lynn Scheid has found himself in dangerous situations more than once or twice.
But it was on a fishing trip in Northern Wisconsin where he came face-to-face with the greatest threat to his life.
“I felt ill, just didn’t feel good at all,” he said. “I had no breath, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t even pick up my socks to put them in the suitcase.”
Thinking he was having a heart attack, Scheid got himself to a hospital, where doctors discovered he had a collapsed lung. As part of the work-up to find out why he had a collapsed lung, they also discovered a potentially cancerous mass in the same lung, which was biopsied during a procedure called a bronchoscopy.
It was during this stay in the pulmonary ICU when he received the news: stage III lung cancer, bordering on stage IV. While he knew cancer could be a possibility, it couldn’t quite prepare for him for the actual diagnosis. “You hear that and you try to take it in, but it’s a difficult thing to hear, and at the same time, it’s like you’re not hearing it at all,” Scheid said.
That diagnosis brought him to the UW Carbone Cancer Center, under the care of oncologist Ticiana Leal, MD and radiation oncologist Andrew Baschnagel, MD. While lung cancer has historically been difficult to treat, advances in lung cancer research have produced new therapeutic options in recent years. Because of that, Scheid was able to have much more optimistic conversations with Leal about his prognosis.
“She said you’re not at a place where we just need to talk about palliative care, you’re at a place where we can talk about a cure,” he said.
What came next was an intense seven-week treatment period of chemotherapy and radiation. This was followed up with twelve months of Durvalumab, an immunotherapy drug which helps the body fight off the remaining cancer cells. The FDA approved this treatment for stage III non-small cell lung cancer in 2018.
The weeks of radiation and chemotherapy were grueling. During this time, Scheid experienced extreme pain and fatigue, on top of psychological and emotional stress. “I was feeling like I was going to die, not because the doctors told me that, but because just how horrible I felt,” he said. “I didn’t really think I was going to survive, to be honest.”
But then, in early 2020, something remarkable happened: the pain and fatigue started to drift away. With the side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation wearing off and the immunotherapy really getting to work, his symptoms became less severe, and his outlook began to change dramatically.
In other words, the treatment did its job.
“I started to feel human again,” Scheid said. “And then I started to feel hopeful. And then I started to get stronger emotionally.”
Within weeks, he was taking long walks and exploring Madison by bike – activities that would have been impossible for him only months before. And while he continued to receive treatment in the clinic, it was in the community where he found healing.
“The entire town is kind of like an environment for curing,” Scheid said. “Beautiful lakes, wonderful little bike trails, it’s like a giant relaxation center. Even as the pandemic was happening, it was possible to still get outside, get some fresh air, and feel rejuvenated to some degree.”
Now, more than a year after barely being able to breathe, Scheid is cancer-free and feeling good. While he’s done with treatment, he’s sticking around Madison until the threat of COVID-19 passes, which is okay by him. After all, Scheid believes he’s alive today because he was in the right place at the right time, under the care of the right people.
“You end up in the middle of the worst moment of your life in the place with the nicest people and the best medical care you could possibly get in the country,” he said. “I was very lucky to have this experience here.”
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Date Published: 02/03/2021