Living Well at Any Age: Lung Cancer Survivor John Thompson

John Thompson, 93, credits his lifelong good health to genetics and lots of fresh mountain air. While raising his family near the Carbon River in Mount Rainier National Park, he spent his days earning a doctorate degree and evenings and weekends painstakingly repairing and maintaining his mountain home. The structure later became the park’s Carbonado River Ranger Station, and today serves as a welcome to the northwest corner of Mount Rainier National Park.

Today, John lives just minutes from the ranger station in nearby Buckley, Washington in a peaceful, alpine-style home. There, he looks after chickens, tends to grapevines, and maintains the landscape from the seat of a riding lawn mower.

But last year, John’s normally good health seemed to falter. He couldn’t shake a persistent cough and scheduled a checkup with his primary care provider. She recommended follow-up tests, which revealed cancer in his left lung.

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John was quickly scheduled for surgery with Baiya Krishnadasan, MD, at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. In a robotic-assisted procedure, the cancer was removed along with part of the lower left lobe of John’s lung. The surgery was remarkably straightforward, and the entire process was easier than anticipated, recalled John.

“I feel as good as I ever did. The scars from surgery were small, and now I can’t see them at all. I trusted the doctors and they did a great job,” said John.

Just three months after his surgery, John took a cross-country road trip, walking and sightseeing with family. He’s taken two more such trips over the past year. John’s one-year follow up visit took place this summer, and scans showed no further signs of cancer.

“We’re grateful that the staff at CHI [Franciscan] made this so easy for him,” said his daughter Alison. “As we know, ageism is alive and well, but we never encountered that attitude. Instead Dr. Krishnadasan looked at Dad and said, let’s do this.”