Based in Richmond, Va, Catherine is a freelance writer specializing in stories about the arts, parenting, health and wellness, aging, and fascinating people.

Harold Knight—Lucky Despite Having Lung Cancer

Despite his lung cancer diagnosis, Harold Knight considers himself lucky. Although he used to smoke, he never took a sick day in his life. “They always say I was a tough old guy,” he says. “I had never been sick before.”

Then, about a year and a half ago, Knight fell while walking in the mountains. He consulted his primary-care physician, who didn’t seem particularly concerned. Knight, however, felt sure that something was wrong. He kept complaining until his provider x-rayed the spot. Knight was smart to listen to his instincts: the X-ray revealed a tumor in his lungs the size of a lime on the exact spot where he had fallen.

Knight was treated by Robert Kyler, MD, a radiation oncologist with Augusta Health in Fishersville. From the beginning, Knight appreciated Dr. Kyler’s warmth and accessibility. “His caring has helped me get through the process,” says Knight. “When you work with someone who appreciates you, you feel better.” Knight underwent radiation therapy five days a week for six weeks with Dr. Kyler, and thankfully, the tumor disappeared.

For patients with cancer, Dr. Kyler advises educating themselves as much as possible: “Make sure you understand everything you can about the diagnosis and recommendations, gather information about all the options, ask questions, and get comprehensible answers. Then, during treatment, follow recommendations, mention any symptoms and side effects, and continue to ask questions.”

Dr. Kyler also recommends that patients stay active and eat healthfully throughout the treatment process. “Continue with an exercise regimen to the degree possible,” he says, “and you will be better able to withstand the rigors of treatment.” Knight did just that, and it seems to have helped him cope with the challenges of undergoing radiation and chemotherapy.

Knight says that Dr. Kyler and his team have helped him remain positive throughout the process. “They took away the thought of dying,” he says. “They made me feel like I’ll be fine, and I believe in that.”

Dr. Kyler finds that, paradoxically, it is sometimes harder to manage emotions after treatment is done, because then the patient and provider are no longer actively fighting the cancer but simply monitoring it periodically. Knight visits Dr. Kyler’s office every six months for scans to ensure that his cancer has not returned, and he gets nervous before these appointments.

Dr. Kyler strongly encourages patients not to identify themselves by their diagnoses. “Mr. Knight is aware of the fragility of life, but he hasn’t let this experience define who he is,” he says. Although Knight still worries, he has found the strength and energy to return to the mountains he loves.

Medical Provider

Robert Kyler, MD | Radiation oncologist | Augusta Health

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