I was diagnosed with Stage IV Adenocarcinoma in August of 2014. With the disease being that advanced, initial treatment options were limited to "tried and true" chemotherapy. Fortunately for me, that worked well enough for me to go into remission by Thanksgiving of that year. At that point, my doctor discussed radiation therapy as an option for me to fight the cancer even harder. I am young and in pretty good health, so we worked with the radiation oncologist to come up with a personal plan for me. I'm happy to report that the radiation worked extremely well. We are winning my cancer war, and my prognosis is strong!
Right now, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 17% and that's just not good enough! As a 2-year survivor, I can tell you that that number is sobering to say the least. But, I don’t let the statistics define me or anyone else who has this disease. We can and will improve that number by supporting one another at Free to Breathe events and by funding the critical research needed to find better treatments and ultimately, find a cure for lung cancer.
I am one of the lucky ones. I'm fighting lung cancer but, if you saw me walking down the street, you'd have no idea that I had even been touched by cancer personally. Because of my journey and because I had a survivor-mentor to show me "the ropes" when I was diagnosed, I feel a responsibility to help those who are newly diagnosed. For me, the Nashville Free to Breathe event this year is a jumping off point to help many others fighting a similar fight. I understand where they are, I can talk about the battle personally, and I want to use Free to Breathe as a vehicle to offer them real hope.
To others who have been touched by lung cancer, please know that this disease doesn't just affect one person. I've seen it affect my family, my friends, and my work. If you know someone who is fighting, they are the same person they were before their diagnosis. Don't treat them differently now that they have cancer. Love them through their fight. You may be the spark they need to win their personal cancer war!
If you've been personally diagnosed, do what your doctor says! Eat better and exercise. I found a group called the "Survivor Fitness Foundation" that creates personal exercise programs for cancer survivors and provides a personal trainer for 3 months to help you get started. Both the exercise AND the supportive community I found in their program fuel me. It allows you to find your workout and find some new friends who understand your world at the same time.
Finally, find a very personal "mental space" that you can go to when needed. I'm a spiritual person, so I lean on that background significantly. I also found specific words that would allow me to redirect my thoughts when times got tough. When times were at their hardest, I could (and still) rely on the words "RALLY RALLY RALLY!" to pull myself out of the valley. I know that sounds simplistic, but for me it works. I begin to think about what is good, about the successes in my battle, my loved ones, and those that count on me. When I do that—when I shift my mind from what's wrong to what's right, I began to feel better almost immediately. My challenge to you: Find your own "RALLY-RALLY-RALLY" cry!
Since my diagnosis, I now live by a new motto: "Life is short so do for today what's most important." I only wish I would have been doing that since I was a kid!
Cancer Hope Network is proud to partner with Free to Breathe to provide support for lung cancer patients and their caregivers. Each month, we feature a lung cancer survivor’s story. For more information about Free to Breathe, or to gain access to additional lung cancer survival resources, please visit http://www.freetobreathe.org/.