Three years ago, Brian Kissinger received a diagnosis that changed his life. While at the hospital having X-ray work done for a case of pneumonia, his doctor made an unexpected discovery. Brian had a large mass growing on his left lung. He had a rare form of stage IV non-small cell lung cancer.
Brian, 33 at the time, was shocked. He had never been a smoker, had no family history of cancer, and led a healthy, active lifestyle. In addition to the carcinoid tumor, which had caused his left lung to collapse, the cancer had spread to his liver and lymph nodes.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Brian. “I didn’t even understand what he was telling me. I had to have him spell the type of cancer four times. I couldn’t even write it down correctly.”
Help from Bonnie J. Addario
This is when Brian was introduced to the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation, which is conveniently located just a mile down the road from Brian’s home in San Carlos, CA.
Founded by Bonnie Addario, who’s an eight-year lung cancer survivor, the Foundation helped Brian get in touch with specialists, facilitate the tests he needed, and provide a wealth of support that helped him get through months of treatment.
“They’ve been a lifesaver for me,” said Brian. “It’s really hard when you first go through this, and on top of that you don’t know why it’s happening.”
Brian quickly realized the question of “why” was something he had to get past, and start fighting. He recalls what his doctor had told him at the start, “You’re young, you’re healthy, and if you’re willing to work with me, we can hit this as hard as we can.” Brian replied with the same attitude that has carried him through it all: “Let’s go for it.”
After numerous rounds of treatment, including carboplatin-taxol chemotherapy, and trying different medications, the cancer finally responded.
Three years later, Brian is feeling healthy, has regained much of his original lung capacity, and is happy to be spending more time with his wife and three year old son, Braydon.
Focus on the Positive
Still close with many people at the Addario Foundation, Brian is a regular attendee at support events where he gets to share his message of hope after diagnosis.
“Everyone has that image of a cancer patient being bald, gray, and sickly with no energy,” said Brian. “I was certainly there, but I came back.”
While still receiving treatment, Brian’s condition is stable. In two weeks, he and his wife are taking their son to Disneyland for the first time, and Brian couldn’t be more excited.
“I’m trying to tell people not to focus on the bad,” said Brian, “but to look around and see the positive things. There’s so much to be thankful for.”