Lung Cancer Survivor: “If You Don’t Feel Well, See Your Doctor.”

October 31, 2017

It started with a summer cold and a cough that lingered. Gregg Baumbaugh visited his family physician who first thought he had a touch of pneumonia. He started antibiotics but when things didn’t clear, Baumbaugh had a CT scan that showed a spot on his left lung. That’s when he began seeing IU Health oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn.

“I had a five centimeter tumor in my lower left lung and no symptoms whatsoever,” recalls Baumbaugh, 60. He and his wife Betsy have been married for 35 years and they have three children and four grandchildren.

In September of 2009, Dr. Kenneth Kesler performed surgery to remove Baumbaugh’s lower left lobe. Four rounds of chemotherapy followed along with a year of Avastin (bevacizumab), a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. A CT scan followed in August of 2012 and showed recurrent tumors, three in the left lung, and two in the right. Baumbaugh tested positive for ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) mutation, an abnormality in a gene that can occur in cancer cells such as lung cancer cells. In September of 2012 he began taking inhibitor Xalkori (Crizotinib). A month later, a CT scan showed no evidence of tumors and he has had no sign of the disease since.

“If it wasn’t for the inhibitor I’d be dead now, said Baumbaugh. “The goal is to live long enough for the next generation of drugs. Other than minor side effects of the drug I am living a normal life working full time.

“When I was first diagnosed, I asked people if I should go to another hospital because I wasn’t sure what was best. The prevailing answer was ‘the best doctors are right here in Indiana at IU Health,’” said Baumbaugh, who has a twin brother on the West Coast. “The care I got and the whole experience was so great. You think of hospitals as cold and sterile but Simon Cancer Center was nothing close to that.”

In 2014, he began running for exercise and eventually worked his way up to participate in two half marathons.

“The best advice I can give to men is to set aside time to exercise even if it’s just walking a mile a day. And if you don’t feel well, don’t hesitate to see your doctor,” said Baumbaugh, who shared his experiences at the November 11 “Evening of Promise,” a gala for the American Lung Association.

This was the 7th year for the Evening of Promise Gala held each year during Lung Cancer Awareness Month with a goal to raise $480,000, said Tanya Husain Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Indiana. Indiana University Health President & CEO, Dennis Murphy is an event chair for the gala.

“An event that reaches this stature has the capacity to fund four years of Lung Cancer Discovery Awards which can help find a cure for Lung Cancer,” said Husain. “Together with the leaders from our community, we are making a big impact in the lives of those who struggle to breathe.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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