July 23, 2011 - I woke up bright and early. I was happy and excited to be playing in a charity golf tournament that I helped organize. It was going to be a beautiful and fun day since I would be golfing with my sister, my brother and my nephew. We finished playing and while waiting for the scores to be posted, I unexpectedly collapsed and an ambulance was called. The day ended with me in the emergency room and the doctor telling me I had a lesion on my lungs.
Three weeks later it was confirmed to be stage II lung cancer with two lesions not one. On my first consultation with my oncologist, she said “good morning” and then I cried for thirty minutes. Dealing with the unknown reality of cancer can have a devastated effect on your mental and emotional well-being. Because I was in denial, I decided I needed a second opinion.
I will be forever grateful to my pastor for referring me to Dr. Garst in Raleigh. On my first visit, when she saw the tears in my eyes she held my hand while she confirmed my diagnosis and gave me all the details and information and referred me to The Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina which is an organization that supports education, awareness, and funding for lung cancer.
Initially, I was scared to even look for information, but eventually I got the courage and visited the website. There I found tools that helped me communicate with my healthcare providers, plus information on staging, treatment options, clinical trials, new targeted therapies and surgery options. Suddenly I had support services and advocacy opportunities. Most of all, I had reason to hope.
Surgery took place September 26th and chemo began January 5th. I went through three of four treatments and lost all my hair. Needless to say, my emotions were all over the chart. The two "C" words, cancer and chemo are very scary words, especially when one minute you are playing golf and the next you have cancer. But they don't have to be.
Last November at the Raleigh 5K, I met lung cancer survivors ranging from one to sixteen years and it was very inspiring to be among this group of rallying survivors. My daughter, Allison, made me a sign for that walk and she wrote "Cancer may have started the fight, but you will finish it." That gave me hope and I wanted to pass that hope along to others!
I was surprised at how quickly I became an advocate after I completed my chemo treatments. I took an advocacy class where I met other survivors who all had inspiring stories which gave me so much encouragement. In two years’ time, I have volunteered and participated in many events hosted by advocates who have committed themselves to supporting education, awareness, and funding of lung cancer.
For me, doing educational presentations is one of my commitments as an advocate. I am also proud to say that I hosted my first Fayetteville “Evening of Hope” Gala last May in which we raised $8,000. Our second annual Gala will be May 3, 2014. I have found that I am so passionate about the lung cancer movement that I feel empowered just by talking about it.
I am alive to talk about these issues; therefore I must. So, I now write my story because I was lucky, lucky in the sense that my lung cancer was caught at an early stage. I now write my story because I was lucky to have a very supportive family, Church family, friends, and those I just met along the way. And finally I write my story because now I want to help others by being an advocate of The Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina.
2 year survivor