My experience with lung cancer started out scary just like any cancer diagnosis. The first three months after my diagnosis were filled with fear of the unknown. It took a while to wrap my mind around the fact that I had cancer and to come to peace with it. During that time, I prayed a lot and I thought about life and my kids and what I needed to plan for them. I would sit outside by myself in quiet reflection and I would journal my thoughts and feelings. When I started to write my own personal blog, I caught a glimpse of how God has been working in my life, even though at the time I didn’t see it. It was even more proof that I was never alone. It was proof that He has been providing for me and my family this whole time. It was proof that I can trust in Him, and with that trust, I found peace.
One day while sitting outside, I got on the Internet and did a search for EGFR. Eventually, I came upon the LUNGevity EGFR group on Facebook. I’m very grateful that I found that group. I wrote a long post introducing myself. Almost immediately people started responding with welcoming messages. Their messages were full of love, support, and hope. This group has been such a blessing. However, because I was so new to cancer and I was still very emotional, when I would find out that someone in the group had passed away, it would throw me into a dark place. It would hit me really hard, since they had the same cancer as I do. I kept thinking about what happened to them and wondering if it was going to happen to me. I think it was hard for me at that time because I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how long I had to live. However, after gaining more knowledge about my cancer and the many treatments that are available, I don’t feel as scared. I feel more hopeful. I still have dark days but not as often.
Where I live, we have a cancer organization called Victory in the Valley that provides resources and support to cancer patients and their families. They are a huge help in our community. Recently, the director approached me and two other lung cancer survivors and asked if we would be interested in starting a lung cancer support group. The support group has been a blessing. We’ve had two meetings so far and it already feels like a family. We can come together and share what we’re going through. We can be sad, we can be angry, or we can be happy, and we all understand. We discuss treatments, medications, side effects, or whatever is weighing on our heart that night. We are in a safe place and know that whatever we share is kept in confidence. But best of all, we know we are loved and that we are not alone.
I hate that I have cancer, but I’m extremely grateful for the friends that I’ve made on this journey. I’m grateful for the doctors and nurses, for the many strong, amazing survivors, and for the brave friends I’ve lost along the way. Each individual has made an impact on my life. Each has helped to shape this journey that I am on and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It is true, when you have cancer you see life in a different light.
If I could give any advice or words of wisdom to a newly diagnosed patient, I would tell them that there is HOPE! Don’t give fear the steering wheel. There are many great treatments out there now. Get educated about your type of cancer. Stay positive and stay hopeful. You are not a statistic. Allow yourself to rest and heal. Allow others to take care of you. You will have good days and bad days. Enjoy those good days to the fullest by doing what you love. And pray through those bad days. Surround yourself with positive, loving people. Enjoy life and remember - you are not going through this alone!
Advocacy has become an important part of my life because before my diagnosis, I thought that lung cancer was a smoker’s cancer. But now we know that it is not. I am using my personal blog and social media to raise lung cancer awareness. I also take the time to call my state representatives to inform them of our needs as patients. I’m planning to reach out to local news stations to do a piece during Lung Cancer Awareness Month this year. We need to inform everyone that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or smoking history. No one deserves lung cancer. I was a non-smoking, healthy, organic-eating triathlete who was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It wasn’t caused by smoking or radon. The type of lung cancer I have was caused by a DNA mutation that I never heard of prior to my diagnosis. We need to raise awareness and increase funding for early detection and better treatments. The research and funding we can get today will help extend the lives of those who get diagnosed tomorrow. It’s the future we need to prepare for. We need to pull together and save the lives of the ones we love because we don’t know who is going to get diagnosed tomorrow.