Recently, Mindy, who none of you regular readers know, died of lung cancer. She was my decades-long best friend's wife. And she was my friend too, going back almost 40 years. Married to my oldest friend (starting in 10th grade), Cary, for over 35 years, Mindy was originally classified as stage I five years ago. Cary didn't tell me for a year or so after because he didn't want to burden me with another piece of bad news, and Mindy being diagnosed with lung cancer would most definitely have been bad news.
Say that three times quickly. Heck, say it one time slowly. And then welcome to my whirled: the world of cancer treatment and survival. A "whirled" in which, eight years and nearly eight months post diagnosis, I continue to live, breathe, and write.
Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of age, gender, athleticism, or overall health, lung cancer can impact any one of us. Just ask lung cancer survivor Taylor Bell Duck.
In 2005, Taylor Bell Duck graduated from high school and expected to play Division 1 soccer. But when she got to college, her health started to become an issue. She experienced painful numbness in her feet and recurring pneumonia that ultimately forced her to quit the sport she loved. After countless doctor visits and tests, Taylor learned that her left lung had a large mass.
Four hours up north with moderate hassle first thing Thanksgiving—Thursday morning. Dinner and all the fixings with family and friends upon arrival, after a midday break. Conversations and such with young, medium, and old (with yours truly being the oldest of our generation) until 1:15 a.m. (a recent time record for many). Up at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast with more casual talk and noshing. Out the door at 9:15-ish heading back for an immediate day-after return trip home scheduled to make an early Friday afternoon chemotherapy infusion.
On September 17, Sarah Coleman and her husband Dan Ellis embarked on a sponsored walk from the top of Manhattan to the bottom. Sarah, who has Stage IV lung cancer with the ALK+ mutation, was inspired by the ALK Positive Facebook group’s initiative to raise $100,000 for a research grant to investigate why ALK+ lung cancer develops resistance to targeted therapies.
I was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer at the age of 29.
Prior to the diagnosis, I led an active lifestyle and participated in several fun runs. With a regular dose of the sun and fresh air from the beach resort where I was working five days a week, and with no immediate family history at that time, cancer was not within my radar. I thought I was completely healthy.
So I've been told mnemonically for years. But when you're home and automotive-repair challenged as I am, everything is much easier said than done, especially when the mnemonic device is easier to handle/figure out than whatever tool and/or schematic is necessary/advisable for the at-home/in-driveway repair. (We don't have a garage, or much of a basement for that matter. It's more of a cellar, actually. In fact, I call it "the dugout," so lack of spatial accommodations can exacerbate the problem.)
When my mother was diagnosed with Stage 3b lung cancer and subsequently died a short time later, I was grief stricken. I was also very angry. How could it be that lung cancer is diagnosed for only 15% of patients at an early stage? Why were treatment options so limited? How come the first question everyone asked me was if mom smoked? Such questions spurred me to become a lung cancer advocate.