Ask the Advocate: Has Lung Cancer Changed Your Outlook on Life?

Ask the Advocate: Has Lung Cancer Changed Your Outlook on Life?

Last updated: May 2021

Life can change a lot with a lung cancer diagnosis. Has your outlook changed since being diagnosed or since a loved one has been diagnosed? If so, you are not alone. Read our advocates' experiences, and share your story here.

Lysa Buonanno

I've always been a pretty positive person, but how can being told you have a terminal illness not change your perspective a little? There were days I could only lie on the couch and force down some apple sauce, but I was
grateful. I could only walk 10 minutes at a time after a spinal surgery to remove tumors, but I was walking and the sun was shining. I never used to appreciate my birthdays - who wants to get arthritis and wrinkles? I do!

I've learned to not only appreciate every moment but to stay in the present moment. It's so easy to have regrets and wish you did things differently or to worry about the future. Of course I still do these things occasionally, but I really try not to. I don't worry about scan results because it won't change them. Cancer has taken my hair, my strength, some friendships, and most likely my longevity, but I refuse to let it take away the joys of today. Read Lysa's articles here.

Kristine Cherol

It's cliche but I definitely feel I don't sweat the small stuff as much. Minor things just don't seem as important. I don't get stressed over work, or drama between people. It's about the bigger picture; living a full and healthy life. I also notice I stand up for myself more and I feel I have a stronger voice. I was always outgoing, but now I'm less afraid to go after what will make me happy and what is meaningful for me. Let's just say my patience for "BS" has significantly declined! Read Kristine's articles here.

Samantha Mixon

Lung cancer has given me such a better outlook on life. I’ve grown in my faith with God, I quit being a workaholic and began spending more time with my daughter. Traveling and teaching her things. We traveled to nyc, Chicago, Washington DC, and Disney world. I began to enjoy life instead of working towards more money. Money wasn’t important anymore. Read Samantha's articles here.

Alisa Brenes

On the negative side, before diagnosis I was an extremely cheery optimistic person but now have an anxiety in the pit of my stomach that I never had to deal with before. My main concern is staying alive and well enough to see my sons settled and financially independent as they only have me as their family member. On the positive side, I have a deeper appreciation of every day and am so grateful to be stable all these years I have met the most amazing souls through my cancer journey and every day I am inspired by someone in my lung cancer community. Read more from Alisa here.

Jeffrey Poehlmann

I'm not sure if my outlook has changed much -- my worldview is essentially the same, as is my attitude about most things -- but I think my focus has definitely changed quite a bit. There is more urgency in many of the things I do, and I am somewhat less likely to wait on projects (at least the ones I truly want to do). But where I have really changed is that I have become increasingly more prolific. There is a lot I want to say and lung cancer has definitely lit a proverbial fire under me. I have also begun narrowing my focus for work that I do, keeping things that I feel passionate about and weeding out things that I don't.

All my life, I have felt that "the universe" was a good place and that somehow I would manage to land on my feet or find a safety net, no matter what. I recognize that I come from something of a place of privilege and that it is through this good fortune or trick of circumstance that I was able to feel this way, always surrounded by people who cared about me and were there for support. So getting diagnosed with lung cancer might have been a moment that shattered this security I had ingrained in my general outlook on life, but there is something more to my view of how things tie together.

It isn't that I feel I am all that special -- in truth, I'm all too ordinary, hardly exceptional in my accomplishments or contributions to the world -- but I approach the world with a sort of pragmatic optimism that serves me well. Getting diagnosed for me was just the first step in dealing with the process. Yes, it sounded horrible -- and goodness, those statistics would be scary to anyone. I was otherwise perfectly healthy, relatively young, and with no identifiable risk factors, so getting a stage IV diagnosis was something of a surprise. But I was fairly well prepared for it by the time it came around. I'm an avid researcher and had already managed to go through all the scenarios I could imagine before I knew for sure what I had. So at that time, it was all about finding acceptance of my situation and looking for the best path forward. I still feel that I will manage to land on my feet or find a safety net when it is needed -- and in many ways, online communities like this one have offered both stability of footing and the support of a net.

I may have changed in some subtle ways, however; I think I am more attentive to other people than I might have been before, and maybe I am more ready to extend a hand before it is asked for. But as for general outlook, I still consider the universe to be a generally good place, and I'm looking forward to enjoying my position in it as long as possible. Read Jeffrey's articles here.

Karen Loss

It has changed things in some ways, though I think I am still basically the same person I’ve been right along. Here are some of the main ways in which I think I changed after this diagnosis and sometimes after I began to learn what my new experiences would be and mean.

  • The most obvious change was that it caused me to include cancer as an element in virtually ALL of my decision-making.
  • It caused me to consciously think about living each day intentionally. Life has meaning, and I need to try to find the good things in each day, even the rough days.
  • It caused me to think about and work at maintaining a positive outlook on dealing with lung cancer. I am a firm believer that even if it may not lengthen my life, trying to see the good things in life, despite its hardships, will make life better for whatever time I have.
  • It caused me to think even more about my love for Christ and when the time will come that I will meet him face to face. I am thankful that this assurance has allowed me to feel no mortal fear of death, but to look forward to that transition whenever it is the right time for me.
  • My stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis and journey has helped me to feel more focused about my purpose in life. I became a patient advocate and like to use the opportunities available to me to speak and write about facing lung cancer from a patient perspective. This is a subject that the general public is not at all educated about. It is one that presents many misconceptions, and an inaccurate picture to a high percentage of people. I learned that I can play an important role in helping to put a different face on this disease, and can teach my friends, old, new and not yet met. Read Karen's articles here.

Donna Fernandez

Yes, lung cancer has changed my outlook on life. I am happier than ever before because I no longer worry about what tomorrow may bring. I am more likely to appreciate the little things in life - the smell of raindrops, newly mowed grass, or my neighbor's new cedar fence all bring joy.

Like a lot of people, I found that my faith grew much stronger. I trust that God has this in His Hands. If He wants me to keep living, I will. If I end up changing my address, I move to streets of Gold!

I also became far less likely to put up with bad attitudes or negativity. This reduced my stress levels considerably, but it did change some of my relationships. We had to forge new pathways where, instead of my being a sounding board for all things negative, they had to tell me the good that was happening in their lives. Read Donna's articles here.

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