Walter Cybulak


I am a 79-year young man whose story with Lung Cancer started in October 2018.

Early October 2018 I had decided to finally have my right knee replaced. I called the orthopedic surgeon’s office to see if we could get the surgery going as I was having a lot of pain. To my surprise they had a cancellation and agreed to do the knee replacement on October 29th. I was in hospital for four days after the surgery and on October 30th I was given a real punch in the gut. I had a visit from a heart specialist who saw a flash on my admitting chest x-ray and told me that it could be cancer, at that moment my life changed. My file was then transferred to Urgent Lung Care where a CT scan was ordered before I was discharged. That meant that I would get a definite diagnosis sooner than later.

What followed for the next month were a number of tests including a CT scan, PET scan, pulmonary function tests as well an EBUS procedure and biopsy. The results confirmed that I had Stage 3 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. From the EBUS, there was a 3 cm lesion located at the top of the lobe on the right side. At that time, I digress here to point out, that there was no indication at all of being unwell. No coughs, no shortness of breath, no coughing up blood absolutely nothing other than a very sore knee. Basically, I got a knee replacement and ended up with lung cancer. It was quickly decided that I would be treated with chemotherapy, radiation and possibly surgery. An MRI of my brain was ordered due the possibility of metastasis, they found a shadow at the base of the brain but there were no findings for cancer.

I remember thinking at this time that this was really “serious stuff”. A devastating surprise and all I wanted was to get it fixed. At no time during the process did I feel like it wasn’t going to be fixed.

On December 14th I was introduced formally to our local cancer hospital “The Walker Family Cancer Center” As it turns out, if you have cancer this is truly the place you want to be. I found out that I was the most important reason that they even existed. That somehow, made me feel better and more comfortable. I was met and told that I would be followed with an oncologist and I found her to be very bright, energetic, knowledgeable, reassuring and very calming. My radiologist was also a carbon copy of my oncologist. I call them my “A Team”. I would also be followed by a surgeon and a nurse navigator to guide me through the process. The nurse navigator asked me what my timetable was like and I replied by saying “under the circumstances, that I didn’t have anything more important to do “. I felt that this situation was now Job #1 in my life. As well, the nursing staff who looked after me were fabulous, if I had questions, they were there to answer all my concerns. I couldn’t have asked for better treatment and my support team was always there for me to help.

On December 12th, I had 29 staples removed from my right knee.  Remember how this started with the knee replacement. I then exited the Hospital system and walked across the Lobby and in the same building, I started on the fight for my life. Welcome to the Walker Family Cancer Centre.

I was anxious to start treatment and after a pic line was inserted it was decided that treatment would start on January 7th consisting of six weeks of chemotherapy with radiation included on weeks 1 and 5 with 10 rounds altogether.

I was really one of the lucky people. I had no side effects from chemotherapy or radiation, everything went extremely well. I would be a candidate for surgery as the tumour had reduced in size and was extremely operable.

On May 10, 2019 I had surgery for right upper lobectomy and part of the middle lobe. My surgeon told me that everything looked great and that I was now cancer free. Any return would be very surprising, but you can’t say never. I will now be followed up every six months for the next three years and then once a year for life.

Some Personal Anecdotes:

When I was told I had “lung cancer”, I checked out what that meant for me? How would that impact tomorrow – “The first day of the rest of my life”. If you think about it everyday, that costs you one day of the rest of your life, so I just decided, I’m not letting cancer shorten that time. So, I decided the solution was to beat it. I recall that during the whole process I never hoped! I never hoped the chemotherapy would work or the radiation would radiate. I didn’t hope for anything. Somehow, I just decided all would be well. I was told I had the best doctors, the best cancer clinic, and the best surgeon, what could possibly go wrong? Nothing.

At the end of the day, sometimes it hurts, but I spent everyday looking to tomorrow. Go figure, from knee replacement to “lung cancer”. From artificial knee to 1/3 less of a right lung – to no cancer. Completely cancer free. Ya gotta love that. I certainly do.

When I started this journey, I decided I would not get into religion and faith. I believe in God, go to Church regularly, I am a member of the Knights of Columbus and do charity work. When I declared that I had cancer, my brother knights and church parish members and friends said, “I will pray for you”. I politely thanked them a moved along. After this experience, I have to wonder, I told my parish priest that I never hoped I would be cured, I just believed I would be, he said “That is Faith”. For me God, prayer, faith and devotion worked. For someone else it may be as simple as believing in yourself. Believe that you don’t want to let cancer steal your tomorrow and that you gave up one day of your life for. It is so worth the effort.

For my support team, I really have to thank my wonderful, loving, caring wife, daughter and family. Without them, things would not have gone as smoothly as they did. My wife was my ROCK and together we beat Lung Cancer as a team! Your support team is a very important part of your Lung Cancer journey and you need your family, your network to always keep you grounded as mine did and I thank them for always being there for me.