Cancer

Woman has lung cancer detected and treated early thanks to routine screenings

Trudi Conkling Left Jenny Bishop Right

6/15/2021

Trudi Conkling had robotic-assisted lung surgery at Vassar Brothers Medical Center

Trudi Conkling, 72, has always taken her lung cancer screenings in stride. So when her pulmonologist asked her to come in and review the results of a screening, she did not feel too concerned and said she would be available in a few weeks. She began to worry when he said she should come in that day.

Trudi’s pulmonologist said the CT scan revealed what looked like a 1.5-inch lesion in the upper lobe of her right lung and she should see a lung surgeon.

Trudi was diagnosed with lung cancer.

Trudi said hearing she had cancer was “shocking and surreal.”

“I was scared and wanted to take action to treat the cancer right away,” said Trudi, who lives in Woodstock, New York with her spouse, Jenny.

Trudi was able to schedule an appointment with Dr. Faiz Bhora the same day she got the biopsy results that revealed the cancer.

“Between seeing my pulmonologist and my appointment with Dr. Bhora, Jenny and I staggered around the Vassar Brothers Medical Center campus digesting the news. I thought, ‘I have cancer? What if I die?’”

 

Dr. Bhora is system chief of thoracic surgery and thoracic oncology program at Nuvance Health. He is a nationally recognized thoracic surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive procedures to treat thoracic diseases and airway conditions such as lung cancer and tracheal stenosis. Dr. Bhora has extensive robotic thoracic surgery experience and trains surgeons how to perform complex robotic operations.

 

Faiz Bhora, MD
Dr. Faiz Bhora
System Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology Program

 

Dr. Bhora recommended Trudi have a robotic-assisted right upper lobectomy.

 

A robotic lobectomy is a minimally invasive technique where Dr. Bhora can remove a lobe of the lung with no more than a 1.5- to 2-inch incision.

 

Patients usually have a fast recovery and good outcome after a robotic lobectomy especially if the cancer is an early stage.

 

“Jenny is an incredibly supportive spouse. We talked about how we felt and what we should do,” said Trudi. “We knew we wanted to take care of the cancer and have surgery as soon as possible with Dr. Bhora.”

(Left to Right) Trudi Conkling and Jenny Bishop at the Santa Fe Opera
(Left to Right) Trudi Conkling and Jenny Bishop at the Santa Fe Opera 

 

“I felt confident in my treatment plan after meeting with Dr. Bhora and researching robotic-assisted thoracic surgery,” said Trudi.

 

Trudi had surgery a few weeks after her diagnosis and completing the required pre-surgery tests.

 

“I am a very positive person because I was raised by a very positive mother. Even though I felt scared, I also felt hopeful. I thought if I got the cancer taken care of quickly, it would just be a blip in my life and then I could move on with my future. I was held together by that thought,” said Trudi.

 

Trudi said Jenny, Dr. Bhora and her care team at Vassar Brothers Medical Center also held her together.

 

“In the pre-surgery area, a nurse grabbed my hand and it was so warm. I knew I was going to be all right,” said Trudi.

 

”The operation went beautifully,” said Dr. Bhora.

 

Trudi said she felt “relieved” when she woke up after surgery. She was able to go home from the hospital one day after surgery. Trudi said she only needed to take prescribed pain medication for two days after that.

 

Related article: Woman has rare cancer found by chance and removed robotically

 

Trudi felt a little worried about her lung capacity, and she would do deep breathing exercises if her chest felt tight.

 

“I felt vulnerable right after surgery and was careful not to exert myself too much,” said Trudi.

 

Trudi was looking forward to resuming her normal activities including walking her Miniature Pinscher, Lucy. Trudi felt ready to go for a walk about three weeks after surgery.

 

“I did not notice much of a difference in my lung capacity when I went for a walk,” said Trudi.

 

Trudi is back to her normal life. Jenny and Trudi have continued their real estate business on a part-time basis that they managed for 30-years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They love gardening, tending to their two acres of land and spending time with friends.

 

Jenny Bishop and Lucy Planting
Jenny Bishop and Lucy planting

Trudi Conkling Home
Trudi Conkling and Jenny Bishop love tending to their land

 

Trudi also enjoys where they live and said, “I could go look at the Hudson River forever."

 

Trudi will have CT scans every six months. During her last scan she said, “I got really good news.”

 

“I feel like I am out of the woods because my cancer is gone and my scans have been coming back clean.”

 

Trudi has been getting lung cancer screenings at Vassar Brothers Medical Center since 2018 because she was a former smoker.

 

Trudi’s experience prompted some of her friends to get lung cancer screenings. She hopes by sharing her story others will consider screenings, too. 

 

“Talk with your doctor about lung cancer screenings and get them if you meet the criteria. My cancer was caught early because of the screenings.”

 

Learn more about lung cancer screenings.

 

Trudi said for her, lung cancer screenings are a simple test.

 

“I lie down on a table and the CT scanner is like a donut circling around me. I do not feel claustrophobic; it is noninvasive and takes a few minutes.”

 

“I feel fortunate that I had regular lung cancer screenings because my cancer was found early and before I had any symptoms or it had spread.”

 

Trudi also feels fortunate to have a robotic lobectomy.

 

“Jenny and I adore Dr. Bhora and are forever grateful to him. He is our hero because he saved my life.”

 

Learn more about the lung cancer program at Nuvance Health, from screening, diagnosis and treatment to quit smoking and lifelong support.

 

The outcome of treatment for cancer varies from person to person. No individual results should be seen as typical.