Larry Taylor: Lung Cancer Survivor
“I love Dr. Patel to death. Every time I go back, he remembers all about me and tells me how far I’ve come. He really cares about me and says I can call him anytime. He says I’m a miracle, the 1 in 3 with lung cancer who survives.”
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Larry Taylor’s winning ways at the penny slots have gained her the nickname “Lucky.” And since she beat the odds against stage 4 lung cancer, she’s been called a miracle by her doctor and friends.
But she takes her good fortune in stride, preferring to give the credit to her faith and Dr. Tejash “TJ” Patel, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at Kelsey-Seybold Cancer Center.
“I have the Lord on my side,” said Larry, who retired from the City of Houston in 2003. “He had my back, so I just didn’t let it get me down. And I trusted my doctor and Kelsey-Seybold every step of the way.”
In 2015, Taylor went for a check-up with her primary care provider, Dr. Samuel Kuangzoo Huang. She’d been having a worrisome cough and losing weight without dieting; plus an aching shoulder often interfered with her sleep.
A chest X-ray showed a mass that Larry says resembled a spider web, and a needle biopsy revealed stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer. A smoker for 30 years, at the time of her diagnosis Larry was enrolled in a smoking cessation program through Kelsey-Seybold.
Chemotherapy was started right away, and Larry was given a heads up that the cocktail of drugs might make her ill or tired. She admits to being scared and having one last cigarette before starting treatment.
“The chemotherapy didn’t bother me; I didn’t get sick at all,” she said.
Unfortunately, the treatment wasn’t getting the results he wanted, so Dr. Patel changed to another chemotherapy regimen that required infusions every two weeks for six months. Through it all, Larry kept up her routine, getting up early every morning and going about her normal day.
“I love the staff at the infusion center,” she said. “Everyone was so nice and always gave me a hug. They treated me with respect and got me in and out quickly.”
Close to the end of the chemotherapy, Dr. Patel discovered the cancer had disappeared except for two small tumors in the bottom of Larry’s lungs. Radiation treatment was started to eradicate them.
Although Larry didn’t have problems tolerating the radiation, there were some side effects, including increased liver enzymes, which required treatment with prednisone, and high blood sugar, which was controlled with Metformin.
From the beginning, Larry has been impressed with Dr. Patel. She appreciates the personal attention he gives her and that he stays up to date on the newest advances in cancer.
“I love him to death,” she said. “Every time I go back, he remembers all about me and tells me how far I’ve come. He really cares about me and says I can call him anytime. He says I’m a miracle, the one in three with lung cancer who survives.”
Now cancer free, Larry has some words of advice for others going through the experience.
“Just believe,” she said. “Don’t think bad thoughts, and don’t let it get you down. Just keep on going.”