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'Still dumbfounded:' Glendive nonsmoker undergoing treatment for lung cancer

Billings Clinic patient urges others to get symptoms checked early
Posted at 2:40 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 16:40:20-05

A small tickle quickly turned into stage III lung cancer for one Montana man.

Darren Rivers, 49, lives in Glendive is now a lung cancer patient at Billings Clinic.

Rivers has never been a smoker and said it was a shock when a small tickle in his throat quickly turned into something serious.

The tickle seemed mild to Rivers, maybe just allergies. But after three or four weeks, that cough turned into coughing up blood spots, then coughing up blood completely. That is when he knew he needed to go see a doctor.

"I am still dumbfounded by it," said Rivers. "I started seeing red spots. I thought, spots OK, then it turned into streaks. And one day before I went to work, it came up all blood, and I figured, OK I am going to the doctor right now."

Rivers said from there it was a pretty fast and furious process. He came to Billings Clinic and got an MRI. The next day, after a biopsy, doctors confirmed it was cancer. Then It was off to the races.

"We get tickles in your throat all the time, we get a cough, we get sick. But if something persists, that's getting pretty serious," Dr. Michael Kidd of Billings Clinic said. "Whenever we get someone in with changes in their breathing, or something like coughing up blood, those are situations where you take it seriously and get the evaluation going. So it's kind of an urgency of what you are feeling, getting things arranged."

Rivers said he has never smoked tobacco products and was shocked by the news.

"I broke down I will admit it. For a good hour I cried. You know what am I going to do next? What am I going to tell my family? Am I going to get over the hump? Am I going to see you five years from now? All the emotions," he said.

Rivers is done with 11 days of chemotherapy and now has radiation treatments five days a week, which he'll do until Dec. 9.

Rivers said if he has any advice, it's to never self-diagnose.

"You know, don't self-diagnose. Go see an actual medical doctor. Get some real answers," he said.

"Get it looked at. I mean, if there is something nagging you that has just been hanging with you go get looked at," said Kidd. "The quicker you get in the better. Delaying things that gives the cancer time to grow and time to spread. You shouldn't put things off for sure."

After his last radiation treatment in December, Rivers will start a new kind of treatment called immunotherapy.