Couple face lung cancer together

TrasksHelping our community right here in Tucson get and stay healthy and keep on dancing is what Tucson Medical Center is all about. We’re showing off some of our fabulous community members in our latest commercials and you get to find out a little more about them here on our blog. Meet TMC dancers, Jeff and Viki Trask.

The Trasks came together to meet a challenge when Jeff hired Viki as his new director of sales to help him open a hotel in Tucson.

The owners indicated if they achieved a 70 percent occupancy in the first full year – rare in the business – they would give them a trip to Hawaii, all expenses paid. At year end, the hotel’s occupancy was 71.2 percent.

The Hawaii trip turned out to be their honeymoon.

The two are braving a new challenge now.

It started when doctors found cancer in Jeff’s left lung. His physician recommended cardiothoracic surgeon Douglas Lowell. Five days in the hospital passed quickly after the operation and he returned to his life.

Two years later, it would be the right lung, with Dr. Lowell summoned to help again. Another surgery, another five days in the hospital.

Two years later, Viki had the diagnosis: lung cancer. They turned to Dr. Lowell again.

“TMC was great. If you needed something, they were there,” Viki said. “We were even more impressed after we learned TMC is a nonprofit. That’s remarkable!”

Jeff and Viki stated, “We’re extremely grateful to our team of doctors and healthcare providers. They’re all fantastic and we want to thank our nurse navigator, Kim Kastel, who came up with the moniker: Team Trask.”

Jeff has since been diagnosed with his third bout. They both have had rounds of chemotherapy or immunotherapy in addition to their surgeries.

“We’re living with cancer,” Viki said. “Yes, it can be devastating to learn of the diagnosis, but we are determined to stay positive and understand we are living with cancer. We’re on the five-year plan and we just go from there.”

Jeff said one of his doctors recently asked how he’s feeling. “Do you get tired? I do, but only after I work on the oleanders for three hours. I still ride my bicycle during the week. It’s wonderful to be alive.”

Long-time smokers and ex-smokers breathe easier with a lung screening.

Make an appointment today. Call (520) 389-5390

Worries getting in the way of making that call to get a lung screening? You’re not alone. Nurse navigator, Kim Kastel addresses some common barriers people face in this blog post.

Smokers, Kim is here to help you breathe easier

Kim Kastel, Thoracic Nurse Navigator

Kim Kastel, Thoracic Nurse Navigator

The risks of being a long-time smoker can weigh heavily on your mind, especially when considering the threat of lung cancer. Early detection is vital for surviving lung cancer, but the symptoms often present themselves until the cancer is already advanced and a cure is elusive. The CT scanning technology that Tucson Medical Center uses during lung health screening can find the tiniest of nodules, allowing doctors to see suspicious lesions when the tumors are small and can be removed. This screening can literally save lives.

Many people who have a high risk of lung cancer feel unable to take that first step of getting a screening. Kim Kastel, the nurse navigator for the lung cancer program, addresses some of the emotional barriers she’s heard to help people overcome the struggle to get testing:

Am I going to be judged for smoking?

Absolutely not! This is a non-judgement zone. We’re pleased you’re taking this first step to protecting your health and the earlier we can catch lesions the better the outcomes. We work actively against that stigma and increasingly the general public is recognizing that while smoking puts you at increased risk for lung cancer, lung cancer affects non-smokers too.

Am I going to be pressured to stop smoking?

Or am I going to be told off for smoking? I don’t want to be shamed.

While we will encourage you to stop smoking, we know this is a difficult process and we’re not going to pressure you to stop. We can direct you to resources to help stop smoking if you’re ready to take that step.

(ASHLine is a local resource that can help if you’re ready to stop smoking and want support. You can call them at 1-800-556-6222)

What if they find cancer? I don’t want to have cancer.

No one wants cancer, but if we find a suspicious lesion during a lung health screening, you will have support from a nurse navigator throughout the process. The earlier we find any lesion the easier and quicker it will be to get you to being able to say you don’t have cancer.

If I have cancer, it’s already too late. What’s the point?

With early intervention it is possible in some cases to literally cut the cancer out and be done with it — no chemo, no radiation, no medications. If a lesion is found that requires treatment beyond surgical removal, know that in the past 10 years cancer treatments have made huge bounds forward in targeted therapy and are continuing to advance.

I stopped smoking five years ago, so I don’t need to worry with a lung screening, right?

Well done! You’ve lowered your risk. But if you smoked for a long time you will still want to be checked.

Who should get checked?

We offer lung CT screenings to individuals at high risk for developing lung cancer. You may be eligible for a screening if you are:

  • between the ages of 55 and 77 (some insurance companies will cover up to 80 years of age)
  • have smoked an average if one pack of cigarettes a day for the past 30 years
  • if not currently smoking, then quit smoking in the last 15 years.

Will insurance cover the screening?

Most insurance will cover the screening for those at high risk (see above). Medicare Part B covers a lung cancer screening with Low Dose Computed Tomography (LDCT) once per year for those who meet all of these conditions:

  • Aged 55 to 77
  • Asymptomatic, i.e., no current signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • A current smoker or one who has quit within the last 15 years
  • A history of tobacco smoking for at least 30 “pack years” (an average of one pack a day for 30 years)
  • A written order from a doctor

Find out more about lung health screening by calling Kim, our nurse navigator

at (520) 389-5390


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461