Maxine Koutnekoff was 11 years old when she started smoking."Almost everyone smoked back then in the sixties. We simply didn’t know any better," said Maxine. "For the next 30 years, I smoked a couple packs a day. I remember when I was raising my children, I would sometimes have two cigarettes on the go at the same time – one in the kitchen and one in another part of the house." On November 19, 1999, Maxine smoked her last cigarette.
"By the nineties, the attitude toward smoking had changed. We all knew about health risks," continued Maxine. "I wasn’t sure I could quit, but when Dad died of cancer, I felt it was time I tried. My sisters were always after me to quit. And then my husband quit. It wasn’t easy, but I’ll never forget that on November 19, 1999, I smoked my last cigarette."
Not long after quitting smoking, she enquired about taking part in a lung research study.
"About six months after I quit smoking some 15 years ago, I was sitting in my doctor’s office and saw a poster about a clinical study for screening ex-smokers for lung disease. I took down the number and a couple of days later I called," she said.
"Turned out I qualified as a candidate for the study and quickly found myself travelling from Victoria to Vancouver for a low-dose CT-Scan. After the scan and a complete exploratory of my lungs, the results showed two spots of concern. So for the next few years, I continued to get low-dose scans and was closely monitored by a medical team under the direction of Dr. Stephen Lam."
That phone call saved Maxine's life.
"In 2013, a screening test and biopsy determined that one of the spots of concern was cancerous," contined Maxine.
"By August 2014, I underwent surgery to remove that spot. The amazing thing was the doctors didn’t even have to cut me open. There were two parts to the surgery: the first part was putting a coil in my back, which lassoed the cancer; during the second part, the doctors carefully used a machine to help take the cancer out. Thankfully, radiation and chemotherapy were not necessary because the cancer was still at an early stage. I am forever grateful on so many levels.
"I do attribute the cancer in my lungs entirely to smoking cigarettes because throughout my life, I’ve always exercised, gotten plenty of rest, and eaten healthily. So if you are reading this and still smoke, try and quit.," she added. "And if like me, you are an ex-smoker, consider getting screened. Early detection saved my life. Perhaps it could save yours."