Sycamore Shoals Hospital | News Article

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

For team member Mike Horton, decision to get a free lung screening was a lifesaver

For team member Mike Horton, decision to get a free lung screening was a lifesaver

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – To say Mike Horton is lucky might be an understatement. He went through a totally unexpected, whirlwind experience of discovering lung cancer, receiving surgery and treatment, and returning back to work healthy – all within a few months.

Horton works for Mountain States’ telecommunications team, handling phone systems for Tennessee facilities, with his central location being Franklin Woods Community Hospital. At 70 years old, he’s still extremely active as required by the job. He visits several facilities on a regular basis, and a lot of his work involves crawling on the floor under and behind desks to access the phone jacks.

In Mike’s world of telecommunications, he groups our facilities as being either Nortel or Cisco, depending on the company each hospital uses to supply its phone system. He works on both systems.

He smoked for 45 years but quit about nine years ago by using the smoking cessation program through Mountain States’ Health Resources Center.

Mike’s situation likely would not have turned out so well if he hadn’t decided, at the suggestion of his doctor, to get a free lung screening at Indian Path Medical Center. There were no symptoms at the time, but his physician, Dr. Roger Archer, knew Mike used to smoke. So he offered a flyer for a free lung exam and basically said, “You might want to give this a try.”

Mike decided to get the free screening, and the results showed a lump that was 4.8 centimeters wide.

“As soon as they found the lump, everything went fast,” he said. His pulmonologist, Dr. Richard McNeilly, did a bronchoscopy that showed the lump was cancerous. Mike was quickly scheduled for surgery at Johnson City Medical Center with Dr. Anthony Palazzo.

The clinical names for his procedures are a left thoracoscopic lower lobectomy and a mediastinal lymph node dissection. The cancer was removed, Mike came through the surgery with no problems and he headed back to work as soon as he was cleared.

“The free exam was at the end of August, and on Oct. 16 I had my surgery at JCMC,” he said. “Then by Nov. 9, I was back at work.

“I might not have gotten the test if Mountain States hadn’t offered this screening. I wasn’t wheezing, my chest wasn’t hurting, I had no symptoms. I was a little tired but I put that on old age. So I didn’t know I had any problems.

“I have to say thank you to all my doctors and caregivers, and also to Mountain States for offering this kind of free screening. It probably saved my life.”

His advice: “Get tested. If you find anything, jump on it and do whatever you’ve got to do.”

Mike, who is married and lives in Colonial Heights, has been with Mountain States for 10 years. He said his wife, Ellen, was one of the big reasons he was able to quit smoking. And even though he’s already reached retirement age, he plans to keep on working “as long as I feel good.”

How much longer could he have gone before his cancer advanced and it would’ve been too late to save him? “I have no idea,” Mike said. “I know right now I’m cancer-free and thankful for it!”