Facing lung cancer, Georgia woman finds options

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Facing major lung cancer surgery, Judy Wright got a second opinion that changed everything.

The Cobb County 77-year-old has spent plenty of time at the doctor's office over the last 14 months, since her medical journey began.

WATCH: A second opinion saved her life. Hear her story in her own words

It was back in December of 2015,  just as her husband Jack was in the final days of his cancer battle.

"He actually died on Christmas Eve," Wright says.  "But two weeks before that, I went for my annual physical."

Judy's doctor ordered a chest x-ray as part of that checkup.  

And, a few days later, he called.

"And he knew it was close with my husband's passing," Wright says.  "And he said, 'They found something on the chest x-ray that they would like you to pursue.'" 

Judy had been a longtime smoker, before quitting for good in 26 years ago in 1991.  

That same year, she took up running with Jack, and participated in her first of many Peachtree Road Races.

Now, there was a race to figure out what was happening inside Judy's lungs.

She had a CT scan, then a PET scan to look for cancer.  

The news was not good.

"They said that they were probably 99% sure that it was cancer of the lobe, it was malignant," she remembers. "And they also saw a lymph node they thought had the same sort of things."

Wright needed lung surgery to remove the cancer.

But, the first surgeon she saw recommended a major operation, that involved a 6-inch scar and splitting her ribs.

So, she came to Emory's Winship Cancer Institute to see thoracic surgeon Dr. Manu Sancheti for a second opinion.

"I am so happy I did that," she says.

"We talked about the options, and how to deal with getting rid of this cancer and going on with her life," says Dr. Sansheti.

He recommended a minimally-invasive procedure designed to remove early stage lung cancer.

Instead of one large incision, and opening up the ribs, he would make three small incisions.

That would allow him to use instruments, like lights and cameras, to remove about a third of Judy's right lung and some nearby lymph nodes.

"What that allows is not just the cosmetic benefit," says Dr. Sansheti.  "It allows, most importantly, patients to get back to things that they love to do. Get back to work, get back to fun things. Get out of the hospital quicker and recovery."

Judy chose the less-invasive approach, undergoing her surgery in May of 2016.

"And the beauty of having the kind of surgery I did, is that I'm not split all the way from this side of me to all the way down my back," she says.  "I have three small slits. And I wouldn't even be able to tell you where they are now."

Six weeks after her surgery, Judy Wright ran her 25th Peachtree Road Race.

Instead of feeling winded and sore, she says, she felt strong.

She's now undergoing immunotherapy at Winship Cancer Institute, after a recurrence of lung cancer back in October of 2016.  

Her most recent scans show the treatment seems to be shrinking the cancer.

Recently, Wright won second-place in her age group in the Polar Run in East Cobb.

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