News & Stories

Lee Sargent: Loving Life After Lung Cancer

Lee and wife Karen

Lee and wife Karen

I am married to my amazing wife Karen and have two beautiful daughters and a grandson who is the joy of my life. We all live in Cherry Hill, NJ. I retired from my job as a Cherry Hill Police officer several years ago, but now work for the department in a civilian capacity. I love to fish and vacation in Sea Isle in our Airstream.

I was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2014. The tumor was discovered on a pre-admission chest X-ray that I had done in preparation for some planned foot surgery. A biopsy with Dr. Ziad Boujaoude, an interventional pulmonologist, confirmed that the mass was small cell lung cancer (SCLC) — an aggressive subtype of lung cancer known for rapid growth, fast and early spread to distant sites (especially the brain), but highly sensitive to chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Small cell lung cancer only makes up 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers.

Positive Outlook
The doctors who diagnosed the cancer told me I needed to see a cancer specialist right away. I wanted to stay local — never even considered going to Philadelphia because I knew that MD Anderson Cooper was the place to go.

My first stop was to Dr. Alexandre Hageboutros, a medical oncologist at MD Anderson Cooper who specializes in caring for patients with lung cancer. “Dr. Alex” reviewed my biopsy and imaging studies with me and confirmed the diagnosis. But, he said, “There’s good news.” The cancer was confined to my lungs. Most people diagnosed with SCLC are diagnosed in the later stages of the disease, because it spreads so quickly — before people experience symptoms like coughing or shortness of breath. I was very fortunate it was caught on that pre-operative X-ray.

I then saw Dr. Frank Bowen, a cardiothoracic surgeon — and had robotic surgery in November 2014 to remove the upper left lobe of my lung.

After surgery I had three weeks of chemo at MD Anderson Cooper in Voorhees, under the care of Dr. Hageboutros, to kill any remaining cancer.

I then went on to have radiation treatments to my brain under the care of Dr. Gregory Richards, a radiation oncologist. This was done as a precaution because SCLC likes to travel to the brain — and chemo doesn’t cross the blood-brain barrier — so radiation is the only way to treat any lung cancer cells that may have spread to the brain.

Comprehensive Care
Everything went so smoothly. My lung cancer team took care of everything for me. All of my questions were answered and all of my tests and treatments were scheduled smoothly and quickly. I only took off two and a half months from work to recover from surgery and to undergo chemo.

My wife, daughters and my family — they were there for me every step of the way and they handled most of the worrying. I never lost a night’s sleep during my diagnosis and treatment. I knew that my lung cancer team had everything under control and that I was going to be fine. And I am!