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Cancer survivor saves $6 a day from cigarettes as motivation to fight for his life

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Nov 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-08 15:40:39-05

A regular day at the doctor's office turned into a life-changing moment that shook 66-year-old Michael Mickey's world.

After going to the hospital for what Mr. Mickey thought was just a torn rotator cuff injury, a chest x-ray, and CT scan led doctors to notice something out of the ordinary, stage one lung cancer.

"He had a very calm demeanor and was ready to get on to the treatment. If we had offered him the surgery that same afternoon he would have taken it right then and there," said Medstar Union Memorial Hospital Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Dr. Dipin Gupta.

For years, Mickey spent $6 a day on cigarettes, but managed to quit his costly habit in an effort to save his life.

"I can safely and honestly say, I have not wasted another penny on a cigarette or any kind of tobacco product. I told myself that leaving those cigarettes alone will increase my health," Mickey said.

As motivation, he started to save the money he used on cigarettes into a 5-pound water jug, in hopes of buying an expensive fishing rod that he wanted. He took a picture of the fishing rod and hung it everywhere in his house as a constant reminder to not only fight his habit but to fight his disease.

"It made me realize how much money I wasted on cigarettes, or what I like to call 'casket nails'. I was able to get the fishing rod I wanted and now I have enough money to buy my grandkids nice Christmas gifts," said Mickey. 

Since Mickey's cancer was caught early on, Mickey's doctor was able to act quickly and remove the tumor from his lung. Dr. Gupta, values the importance of educating and makes it his mission to inform patients about health risks when talking about lung cancer.

According to Dr. Gupta,"Smoking does contribute to the risk of developing a lot of diseases including lung cancer, heart disease, and a lot of other things. My job is not to be the enforcer I educate them and tell them what the risks are. I make it clear to patients that the actions of smoking are hurting their life expectancy."

Dr. Gupta continued, in order to minimize the risk of lung cancer, it is suggested that you decrease your exposure to toxins, refrain from smoking, and even staying away from secondhand smoke. For people who find it difficult to quit smoking, primary care doctors can prescribe one of many medications that help patients stop the habit. Those who are at risk, are advised to get X-rays and scans as often as possible so that if there is ever a problem, it can be diagnosed early.

In Mickey's case, Dr. Gupta said his patient understood what the issues were and because the spot in his lung was noticed, he was able to receive immediate treatment at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital that, with the surgery, led him to a good recovery. 

Mickey can now spend the rest of his retirement years living his best life with the fishing rod he was so motivated to own.

"I am following all the instructions I got from therapists, doctors, surgeons, and nurses because next summer I plan on being a lot on the water with my big hat on, and cooler with sodas, and sandwiches. Even if I don't go out there and touch fishes, just enjoying the water and listening to the waves crashing and relaxing," said Mickey.

To learn more about lung cancer call during MedStar Cancer Network House Calls on Monday, November 13 and Wednesday, November 15 from 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm to answer your health questions.