Your Health Today Magazine

Bouncing Back

Pat Clever

Pat enjoys her regular game of dominos with other seniors at the Stupp Center in Tower Grove Park in south St. Louis.
Pat Clever finds support, strength after lung cancer battle

Family and friends have always been at the center of Pat Clever’s life. Pat, 73, took special comfort in their prayers and support when she was stunned by a diagnosis of lung cancer in the summer of 2011. She had quit smoking about 30 years earlier.

“My mother-in-law died from lung cancer and she never smoked, so you just never know,” noted Pat, of Affton. “It socks you, but I believe in God, and I believe God’s got a plan for all of us. And I’ve got good family and friends who pray for me.”

Pat had been advised by her primary care physician, Richard Muchnick, M.D., to get an X-ray after she was bothered by a chronic cough for a couple of weeks. In August 2011, she underwent surgery at St. Anthony’s with Peter Fonseca, M.D., to remove the top lobe of her right lung, where a quarter-sized tumor had been diagnosed.

“She had an early stage, 1A, non-small cell lung cancer, an adenocarcinoma, which can show up in nonsmokers,” said Pat’s oncologist, Craig Hildreth, M.D., a partner in St. Louis Cancer Care, L.L.P. “After surgery, in her case, chemotherapy or radiation therapy was not required, just observation.”

She has returned for regular checkups and has followed her doctors’ advice to the letter. It was smooth sailing until last year when cancer cells were found in Pat’s lymph nodes.

“In April 2015, there was a recurrence of cancer in the middle of her chest in what we call the mediastinal lymph nodes,” Dr. Hildreth said. “I gave her a combination of concurrent chemotherapy (four treatments, one every three weeks, for 12 weeks) and radiotherapy, called chemoradiotherapy. After it was completed, a positron emission tomography (PET) CT scan showed the cancer had disappeared. Some patients will never have it come back.

“The prognosis is better if chemotherapy is administered in addition to radiation therapy,” Dr. Hildreth added. “It’s very popular to do both at the same time, and most lung cancer experts would recommend that as a standard of care.”

Though no one can predict the future, Pat is in complete remission, Dr. Hildreth said. She completed her final session of chemotherapy and radiation in July at St. Anthony’s Cancer Care Center.

“Everyone was just as nice as they could be,” Pat recalled. “I did pretty good with the treatment, except where they directed the radiation I had trouble swallowing for a time. I’m better now, and they say I’m cancer-free. You just have to have a positive attitude, try to do the best you can, and eat well.”

Pat and her husband, Cliff, have three grown children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. She is back to enjoying family gatherings, fishing with Cliff at their small vacation home near Perryville, Mo., and meeting twice a month for lunch and games with a circle of close friends. And she is feeling good.

“A little bit slower, maybe,” she chuckled.