On Halloween of 2017, my younger sister Lori was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. Her doctor gave her 12 weeks to live. My siblings and I immediately traveled to NY to visit my sister and our mother decided to have an early Thanksgiving since we were all there together. I am so thankful for that amazing meal we shared as Lori only survived for 3 weeks and passed away the day before Thanksgiving. I immediately felt a lot of anger that she waited so long to go to the doctor and never told us about any health issues. She was only 49 years old and left behind 3 beautiful young adult daughters and a granddaughter, all who loved her so very much. Lori also had pneumonia, so when I started feeling chest congestion I went to the doctor right away as I have had pneumonia twice before. After two unsuccessful rounds of antibiotics my doctor ordered an x-ray and I received even more bad news. After burying my sister just 6 days before, I had to call my parents and tell them that I was also diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. This was just devastating news and crushed them.
Though my cancer has not spread outside of my lung it is considered stage IV as it is inoperable due to the mass being wrapped around an aortic valve. I am determined to remain positive and do everything I can to arm myself with information to fight this battle. I have an amazing family to live for and I don’t want my parents to lose two daughters so close in time to this dreaded disease. I am on my 5th round of treatments. I have gone through 3 rounds of different chemotherapies and one round of immunotherapy, which, unfortunately, have been unsuccessful.
In December 2018, I had a difficult time walking from one side of a room to the other without running out of air. As a result, my pulmonologist started me on 6 daily breathing treatments using a nebulizer and at the beginning of January he needed to add an oxygen tank as well. At the same time I started the oxygen, I also started my 5th infused drug. My family started making trips down to NC to visit with me as things were not going well. Then, after my first two chemo treatments on the new drug I was able to breathe on my own again. Things improved quickly and I no longer needed the oxygen tank or the breathing treatments. It’s been a little over two months now and my blood oxygen levels are at 100% on their own! Now I await my next scan with the hope that we may have found our first successful chemo drug.
I have learned so much during this journey. The most important thing I’ve learned is that humans have been put on this earth to help each other in times of need, no matter what. We were all created to love each other with no room for hate. This became very clear! The number of family, friends and total strangers who just jumped in to help without a second thought has been amazing and inspiring. They did not ask what I needed, they just took it upon themselves to send cards, trays of food, care baskets, and lots of messages of love and support for both me and my family. I have also learned that there is a very special “cancer family” that exists. It consists of other survivors and their families, oncologists, chemo nurses, wonderful support groups, like LCI, and all those affiliated with them. I have met so many caring and amazing people, shared stories and experiences, learned so much about up and coming treatments and even started laughing again! This isn’t a group one particularly wants to be a part of from the cancer aspect, however, this “family” provides such an enormous amount of hope, support and love which is what is needed in abundance during this difficult journey.
Another important thing I have learned is that there is now standard lung cancer screening available for those who meet the criteria. It is so very important to diagnose lung cancer at the earliest possible time. Don’t let your fear of hearing the words “You have cancer” win. Get screened!