Misty Barnes sits on a patio with a blanket.

How I knew I had lung cancer

“I seemed to be healthy,” said Misty Barnes. “But one person’s suggestion to get a lung cancer screening changed everything. That’s how I knew I had lung cancer.”

Misty was loving life as a 57-year-old wife, mother, grandmother and art teacher when her father passed away from lung cancer in 2018. At the same time, her mother – who also died of lung cancer in 2020 – was in the midst of her own battle with the disease. That’s when Misty got a piece of advice.

Getting screened

Should you get a lung cancer screening?

> Answer a few questions to find out

“My sister-in-law worked for a lung doctor and said I would qualify for a cancer screening due to my family history,” Misty said. “She thought I should get the screening even though I had no symptoms and was a non-smoker. But both of my parents smoked pretty heavily in the 1960s and 70s, so I had lived with secondhand smoke. My dad was also an ironworker and was exposed to asbestos, which increased his risk level.”

In December 2018, Misty underwent a low-dose CT scan, which uses a very small amount of radiation to screen a person for cancer.

The results

“They found two spots on my right lung,” Misty said. “The good news was they thought I would be OK, but they were going to watch it. So, I kept going back every six months for scans and was getting good reports until August 9, 2022. I’ll never forget that date. That’s when my doctor’s office called and said they were very suspicious that I had adenocarcinoma, which was confirmed a few weeks later through a biopsy.”

Adenocarcinoma is cancer that starts in glandular tissues that make mucus or fluid, such as the lung, breast, prostate and colon. It’s the most common type of lung cancer and grows more slowly than other types.

A person can have lung cancer for years before symptoms emerge. And by that time, the disease may be in its later stages and difficult to treat.

Undergoing surgery

Fortunately for Misty, the cancer was found early – in stage one. So, her surgeon at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Illinois, was able to remove all of it.

“My surgeon was amazing,” Misty said. “He took out the whole upper lobe of my right lung, and I was fortunate because he was able to remove all of the cancer. I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation.”

Giving credit

Misty Barnes posing on the beach with her loved one.Misty credits the early detection through screening – and her parents – for saving her life.

“I was super close to my parents and truly believe they saved my life,” Misty said. “I would have never gotten a screening if I hadn’t been encouraged to do so because of their illnesses. There was a huge benefit to catching my cancer early before it spread. It saved me.”

Misty’s daughter is a nurse at OSF HealthCare and often cares for patients with cancer.

“There are many times when she’ll call me and say things like, ‘Mom, you are so lucky. I’m treating a person in their 40s, and they’ve got stage four lung cancer. It’s past the point of being saved.’ That’s why I’m telling my story about early screening. If this saves just a few people, it’s worth it.”

Don’t avoid screening

Misty continues to get screenings every six months to ensure the cancer has not returned. For anyone who is hesitant about getting screened, she has a simple recommendation.

“Please, just do it. If they find cancer, then at least there’s a chance that you’ve caught it early. And if they find nothing, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re in the clear.”

Last Updated: May 30, 2024

Follow Us on Social Media

About Author: Luke Legner

Luke Legner is a writing coordinator at OSF HealthCare. He joined the Ministry in April 2021 after several years working in corporate communications in the heavy equipment industry. A Pontiac native, he graduated from Illinois State University in 2002 where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communication.

Luke and his wife, Ashley, reside in Bloomington and have one son and two daughters. When he’s not tackling a home improvement project, you can usually find Luke watching his beloved Chicago Cubs or The Andy Griffith Show.

View all posts by

Tags: , , ,

Categories: Cancer, Patient Stories