After cancer scare, Merrimack woman urges more lung cancer screening

MERRIMACK – Karen Schofield loves to play with her young grandchildren, but she never could have imagined that horsing around with a 3-year-old boy would save her life.

Schofield was playing with young Brayden one day last March when she felt something was not right.

“I was sitting on the couch and he ran to me and jumped into my arms and I flipped him over,” she said.

The discomfort in her chest where Brayden’s feet had hit sent her to the Merrimack urgent care facility.

“I thought I had fractured something. Everyone said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’?”

But she did worry, and X-rays showed she had fractured her sternum.

But the X-rays also showed something might be wrong with her lungs, and in April, the second of two CAT scans confirmed the frightening news – Schofield, who is 50, had lung cancer.

The good news was that the disease was at stage 1 and highly treatable.

On May 15, surgeons at Massachusetts General Hospital removed the lower left lobe of Schofield’s lung, and also discovered there was no involvement with her lymph nodes.

Doctors consider her cancer-free, and catching it so early “boosted my chances,” she said. “I am very, very fortunate.”

Now she wants everyone to be aware of the importance of early detection, especially for smokers. After smoking for 25 years, Schofield quit the day she was diagnosed.

Before the roughhousing bout with her grandson, she had no symptoms whatsoever. Lung cancer, she believes, gets nowhere near the attention it deserves.

“I would love to see people screened the way they are screened for breast cancer … you never hear much about lung cancer.”

But according to the Mayo Clinic website, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, among both men and women, and it claims more lives each year than colon, prostate, ovarian and breast cancers combined.

Now, Schofield’s husband Matt has quit smoking too, and the Merrimack couple, who have been married for nearly three decades, are planning a cruise and are grateful for their energetic grandson.

“He knew grandma had a boo-boo,” but now she lets him know “he is my hero.”

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include a new cough that doesn’t go away, changes in a chronic cough or “smoker’s cough,” coughing up blood, even a small amount, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, hoarseness, losing weight without trying, bone pain and headache.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or