80-Year-Old Non-Smoker Shares Lung Cancer Survival Story

80-Year-Old Non-Smoker Shares Lung Cancer Survival Story

By Geena Martinez
NewsWest 9

ODESSA - Each year, more Americans are diagnosed with lung cancer. Sadly, it's the number one cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. and Medical Center Hospital is trying to spread the word.

Although smoking is a huge factor when it comes to lung cancer, that's not always the cause. An 80-year-old Basin resident knows this all too well. He's hoping his story will prevent people from lighting up for themselves and others around them.

It's the words no one wants to hear.

"He said, 'you've got cancer' and 'I said what?' 'You got cancer,'" Bob Forbess said. "It's scary. It's a scary word."

But that's the reality 80-year-old Bob Forbess faced back in 2011.

Bob had a cough that just wouldn't go away. A series of X-rays revealed a spot on his lungs and then a diagnosis. He had lung cancer and it was spreading, but even more shocking, Bob was never a smoker but others around him were.

"I was raised on second-hand smoke," Bob said. "My mom smoked, my dad didn't. My wife smoked for about 20 years."

While smokers carry a huge risk of developing lung cancer, second-hand smoke can be just as dangerous.

According to the National Cancer Institute, at least 69 chemicals in second-hand smoke are known to cause cancer.

"Over 200,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer every year in the United States and over 150,000 of those patients die," Dr. Joe Kaczor, Chairman of the Cancer Committee at Medical Center Hospital, said.

Dr. Kaczor says even if you quit smoking years ago, there's still a risk.

"The damage was done and it takes that long for the damaged cell to then become a cancer, even up to 10-15 years later," he said.

He's encouraging people to come in for a lung cancer screening test.

Doctors are stressing early detection is crucial.

"High mortality is related to the fact that we often detect lung cancer when it's in advanced stages," Dr. Kaczor said.

As for Bob, he's beating the odds.

"I was told I had six to 12 months to live and I'm still here," Bob said. "I said, 'well am I cured?' and he said 'we don't see much of it anymore' so I feel like I'm a survivor."

"The real key is if you don't smoke, don't start and if you do smoke, quit," Dr. Kaczor said.

If you're interested in a lung cancer screening test at Medical Center Hospital, you can call 432-640-1578.