In 2016 Rayna Pitko went to see her primary care physician. She was having pressure on her chest and was worried. At that office visit, her vitals were so concerning that her doctor immediately sent her to the ER where testing found a massive mediastinum mass. She was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 NSCLC in September of 2016 with a rare subtype called hepatoid adenocarcinoma.
Our long, local, overnight nightmare is almost over. By the date this column publishes, I will, for the first time in nearly nine weeks, not had to have snaked down in the dark, our "turny-twisty" and narrow 150-year-old staircase to walk from the upstairs master bedroom to the downstairs and only usable commode.
By Maria Carmina Joyce Alferez, MD, September 13, 2017
After the first few days of shock, we immediately went into hyper drive. Being a physician, I was front and center in all the research for lung cancer, translating the results into layman’s terms for my family. My husband was my partner in all of these, helping me explain to the family all the medical jargon and plans that we were going to do. There were days that I felt very tired and desperate but I could not show it to my family.
Ordinarily I wouldn't have given the Lyrica television commercial too much attention. But there sat a spokesperson named Kenny, his name clearly printed in red script on top of a white oval located above his right breast pocket on his custom-work shirt, a middle-aged white man like me, holding his left foot across his right knee talking about a medical problem that we both feel: the "shooting, burning, pins and needles of diabetic nerve pain."
By Maria Carmina Joyce Alferez, MD, September 6, 2017
When my sister, 2 years younger than me, complained of dull, constant pain on the left back area in 2011, we thought it was just because of her posture at work. Carla was then 28 years old, a smart, vibrant and levelheaded IT specialist in one of the prestigious hotels in Asia and her work meant long hours of sitting down.
How lucky am I? In the last two days, I have been the extremely lucky, though presumably random, recipient, of not one but two unsolicited phone calls offering me FREE accommodations at any number of Marriott and Hilton hotels, fairly reputable brands, I'd say. All I have to do is transport my wife, Dina, and myself to the agreed-upon hotel during the designated window of opportunity and voila, a semi-unencumbered vacation for two awaits. And believe me, the offer couldn't have come at a better time.
I write this column in all sincerity, but what are you asking me for? A rhetorical question if there ever was one. To what I refer is the question I was asked earlier this morning by one of the home-improvement tradesman working on my upstairs bathroom. Having made significant progress on the bathroom in the five weeks or so since I published "And So It Begins," a column detailing the few facts I retained about the demolition/renovation and the anxiety I felt about it, today's task was waterproofing the shower enclosure/bathroom floor in preparation for the tile, if I understand correctly.
I lost my mom to lung cancer. My mom lived a very clean life, she never drank, never smoked, was never around smokers or smoke-filled environments—she didn’t even eat sweets or fatty foods. There are ads about the connection between smoking and lung cancer and that is important to know. But there’s not much out there that says nonsmokers get lung cancer.
Being diagnosed with cancer, then having cancer/living with cancer, is like having a second job. A job that, unlike many, requires and/or imposes a 'round the clock-type 24/7 adherence to protocol, policy, procedure, presumptions and principle. To live not like you're dying takes more than scoffing at a country music song that twangs an alternative vision. Believing in what routines you're following and any lifestyle changes you've made allows (I didn't say enables) a cancer survivor to thrive under the most difficult and demanding of circumstances.
Which apparently, according to my oncologist, is not unusual. In fact, he's had them, too. What I am referring to, in a general sense, are cancer dreams. The 'cancer dream' I had was my first. Actually, it was not so much a dream, with a beginning, middle and an end, as it was a fragment; a moment in subconscious time that provided (illuminated would be too strong a characterization) an opportunity to possibly see my future and prepare accordingly.