On Sunday, WTOP’s Neal Augenstein shared his cancer diagnosis. On Tuesday, he opened up about how he learned the news, all the support he’s received and how he plans to move forward.
When Neal Augenstein shared her cancer diagnosis on Twitter On Sunday evening, well-wishes and prayers started pouring in almost immediately, and the longtime OMCP reporter said on Tuesday, “I can’t even say how heartwarming it is.”
Augenstein told DMV Download that he’s received emails from “journalists I’ve covered over the years – I won’t embarrass them by naming them, but they’re people I wasn’t familiar with. I agreed, people I agreed with,” along with messages from listeners across the region.
Some simply express their support; some tell stories of “cancer they were successful with, or a family member who was diagnosed 10 years ago and is now 85 and doing well,” he said.
“I mean, I find it incredibly empowering.”
“I’ll watch it”
Sunday’s announcement marked the end of a process that began with a persistent dry cough in September, Augenstein said. When it lasted long enough to go to her doctor, the first thought was allergies.
Even so, he said, he thought of his father, a lifelong smoker who quit in his 40s and died of lung cancer at 85. Augenstein never smoked, but even so, “something in the back of my mind made me think that – you know, I’ll keep an eye on that.
It wasn’t allergies. A course of antibiotics didn’t help either. Then an x-ray showed a small mass in his left lung. A CT scan confirmed this, as well as the presence of “a few other small waste products in my lungs”.
Still, he said, it could have been pneumonia or some other type of infection. “The goal was to rule out cancer,” he said, but “it was becoming clearer that I might have something that we should be looking at.”
He went back and forth between thinking it was just an infection that just needed the right antibiotic and going “the other way – thinking the cancer was ravaging my whole body and I was doomed”.
“I lived hearing this sentence”
Augenstein went to Inova Fairfax Hospital for a bronchoscopy. On Monday, November 21, they put him under pressure, then placed a narrow tube down his trachea to take out some of the lump and whatever was in his lungs.
That evening, he heard the news.
“I always thought, ‘I don’t think I could stand a doctor saying to me, ‘You have cancer.’ I thought my head would explode if someone said that to me.
This was not the case.
“Knowing was much better than worrying,” Augenstein said. Around 10 p.m. Monday evening, the oncologist at the Inova Schar Cancer Institute “told me, very calmly and very reassuringly, that there would be a meeting next Monday, and that I was going to meet him and my radiologist and surgeon, so they had the whole team already mobilized and working.
“Ultimately, you know, I lived hearing that phrase. And soon after, I was, and am, working on a plan – looking to see what I can do to help myself. get rid of that cough and live a long and healthy life.
“I’m new to this,” Augenstein said at one point. Most people are.
Adenocarcinoma is a slow-growing form of lung cancer, and in Augenstein’s case, it spread to a lymph node in his chest. He said he was at stage 3a.
Lung cancer is the leading form of fatal cancer in the United States. Earlier this month, the American Lung Association announced that the five-year survival rate for lung cancer had made “remarkable progress”. The bad news: it went from 21% to 25%. It’s even lower for people of color, according to the report.
That’s usually because people don’t get tested until late in the process, the lung association said.
“Someone can have lung cancer for a while before they start coughing,” Augenstein said, and if it’s the cough that brings you to the doctor, “it might indicate there’s been a spread.”
There are 14.5 million Americans who fall into the recommended category for lung cancer screening, and some research indicates that up to 60,000 people a year could be saved if everyone got screened once was in the recommended category.
Augenstein said he doesn’t dwell on the data.
“I don’t think I’m going to pay too much attention to numbers; I think I’m going to be careful about feeling good, following my doctor’s orders, making informed judgments when I can.
‘Let’s go on’
Augenstein said he would start chemotherapy and radiation before the end of the year and would continue to work.
He still coughs fairly regularly – “I cough less when I’m not talking” – and now speaks while breathing deeply, going as long as he can and catching his breath. Most of his reporting involves recording, so if his cough interrupts a sentence, he can start over at the break.
Acid reflux is probably in his future, due to the treatments, but “my voice box is fine, so my suave tones shouldn’t be affected by all this treatment.” He added: “WTOP has been wonderful [as far as] ‘Do what you want to do, what you need to do, what you prefer; let us know what we can do to help you. And I love my job. »
He is 63, 17 years younger than his father at the time of diagnosis, and says he is in good health – “apart from having cancer” – and is looking forward to it.
“Right now, I will be living with cancer. And I think I want my life to be happy and healthy and full of hope. And I’m very encouraged right now.
“So, let’s – you know, let’s carry on. Let’s see where we end up.
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