28-Year-Old  Faces Small Cell Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Back in 2006, special education teacher Montessa Lee didn’t think too much about the intermittent pain she was experiencing in her chest. It wasn’t until her cousin insisted, in fact, that she went to urgent care to see what might be going on.

An EKG came back with normal results, and she was told that the pain was from inflammation around her ribcage – something she could easily explain away since she had recently upped her workout routine. With no further testing or x-ray imaging, she was simply prescribed Ibuprofen for the pain.

Within just a few weeks, however, Montessa developed a nagging cough and back pain to accompany the discomfort in her chest. She reluctantly went to the ER where a chest x-ray revealed that a mass the size of a cantaloupe was covering three-fourths of her lung. The doctors immediately administered an IV. Despite her protestations, her doctor insisted she stay at the hospital for further testing.

When the results of a CT guided biopsy were inconclusive, they conducted an open chest biopsy. Montessa, a vegetarian and never-smoker, had Small Cell Lung Cancer. She was 28 years old.

Powering Through Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment

Montessa received her diagnosis just before Christmas, and would remain in the hospital until after New Year’s Eve. As is the protocol for small cell lung cancer, she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously. Once she had completed six rounds of treatment, doctors determined her scans were clean – and they have been ever since. Today, she is followed closely by a “survivorship team” and has scans every six months.

Montessa is a self-proclaimed pessimist and credits the Church and her belief in a higher being with her recovery.

“If having cancer doesn’t change your life, something is wrong. I knew that this was going to be something bad, but I promised myself it wasn’t going to kill me. There is a difference between surviving and living. I made it my mission to live.”

I’m using my lungs to advocate

As a member of LCFA’s Speakers Bureau, I’m advocating for research and raising awareness through the media, embodying hope and action.

View Speaker Profile