Lung Cancer Doesn't Discriminate: Elizabeth's Wirth's Story as a Never-Smoker

November 19, 2019

Elizabeth Wirth, of Cape May, had had her fair share of battles with cancer – breast cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid cancer – all of which were caught early.

At 74 years old, never having smoked a cigarette in her life, the last disease she expected to develop was lung cancer.

It all started with a routine visit to her gynecologist in July 2019, Wirth shared. Her physician came across something suspicious, which turned out to be Paget’s disease. Dr. Robin Wilson-Smith, Medical Director of Gynecologic Oncology Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township, treated her and ordered a follow-up CT scan.

“Knowing my history, she wanted to make sure I had a clean bill of health,” said Wirth. “That’s when they found a mass in my lung. I was shocked, but I consider myself lucky to have a doctor who thought to double-check.”

Wirth was referred to Dr. Duane Monteith, thoracic surgeon and Medical Director of Thoracic Oncology at the Cancer Center, who removed the malignant mass and declared her cancer-free as of October.

“The past few months have felt surreal,” said Wirth. “I was so busy, with so much on my mind, and I still can’t believe it happened. It’s strange to say I had lung cancer when I never smoked.”

In addition to her cancer history and genetic mutation, Wirth accredits secondhand smoke exposure as a possible risk-factor, having grown up in a time when smoke-free laws were not yet in place. “So many of us were exposed to smoking on a daily basis. It was everywhere we went.”

Thankfully, Wirth says she feels much better than what her medical history looks like on paper. Still in recovery, she’s experiencing minor limitations with lifting objects and is steadily regaining her lung capacity. “Other than that, I feel amazing.”

When asked what kind of advice she would give to others who have received a cancer diagnosis, Wirth said to trust your medical team rather than what you read online. “My entire care team was positive, accommodating, and truly listened to me. I knew I could rely on them.”

“Above all else,” Wirth continued, “remember that life goes on.”

For more information on cancer services offered at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Washington Township, click HERE or call 856-218-5324.