Getting the most out of life: Moving forward after lung cancer

This Henry Ford patient will explain.

Not everyone knows what their neighborhood looks like at 4 in the morning, but Jeff Clark of Brooklyn does.

He’s up early to prepare for work and walk each day before heading to his job at Consumers Energy. Along with his daily walk, his other favorite activities — hunting, fishing, golfing and hockey — keep Jeff, 61, active and in shape.

He and his wife Terry enjoy spending time outdoors playing with their three dogs, too.

The Clarks’ dogs are both pets and hunting companions. Jeff recalls the morning he was preparing to head out for a day of hunting when things took a surprising turn. While lifting his English setter into her crate, Jeff felt a pop, causing a sudden soreness in his shoulder. Within the week, Jeff went to see his family doctor, Brian Adamczyk, MD, at Henry Ford Allegiance Family Medicine in Brooklyn.

Dr. Adamczyk ordered an X-ray of Jeff’s sore shoulder. When the radiologist’s report came back, Jeff’s story took yet another turn. The report noted a “spot” on Jeff’s left lung. He was stunned. Jeff didn’t have chest pain or coughing, and he’d never smoked in his life.

“I saw my life flash before my eyes,” Jeff said.

Jeff understood the growth needed to be removed as soon as possible. He and Terry got busy researching surgeons. They started with Mohan Kulkarni, MD, a thoracic surgeon with Henry Ford Allegiance Health. Dr. Kulkarni is known internationally for his expertise in thoracic robotic surgery.

When the Clarks met with Dr. Kulkarni to go over test results, Jeff recalls that Dr. Kulkarni helped him feel reassured and confident he’d chosen the right surgeon.

“Dr. Kulkarni is the best, and that made my decision a no-brainer,” Jeff said.

Dr. Kulkarni successfully performed a lobectomy, removing the top lobe of the left lung where a cancerous mass was located. Dr. Kulkarni routinely uses minimally invasive robotic technology because it offers improved surgical precision and smaller incisions, often resulting in less pain, shorter hospital stays and better overall outcomes.

“I lost 20 percent of one lung, and I don’t even notice,” Jeff said.

Jeff Clark (Photo provided by Henry Ford Health System)

The morning after surgery, Jeff was dressed and ready to go when Dr. Kulkarni came into his hospital room. As soon as he got the OK, Jeff threw his duffle bag over his shoulder and out he went. In just more than a week, Jeff was back on the job at Consumers Energy.

At the same time, participating in physical therapy helped Jeff regain his strength and range of motion. True to his active nature, Jeff made the most of it.

“When it comes to rehab, I go above and beyond,” Jeff said. “I want to know how much more I can do.”

Within 12 weeks, Jeff was fully healed and in better shape than he was before his surgery.

“I had remarkable results and consider myself very fortunate,” Jeff said.

Today, Jeff lives with a renewed sense of urgency. Once again, he’s up at 4 a.m., ready to do even more than before. “I can’t get enough out of life. I want to keep moving!”