It's About the Journey
I remember the days following my diagnosis as if they were yesterday. I was told I might not have very many more days here on earth, so I decided I better enjoy and make the most of the days I had. And, even though my initial prognosis was only four months, I somehow decided from the very beginning that I was going to try to bring hope to others with this disease.
Don't let the diagnosis steal your joy
When my mom, husband and I showed up for my first chemo treatment, I wore a t-shirt that said, "It's about the journey" and that's the attitude I have tried to adopt. I asked my husband to video my first chemo treatment. I wanted to post it online to document the fact that a dire cancer diagnosis doesn't have to be scary, doesn't have to steal your joy.
Some medical personnel have a difficult time figuring me out. I don't fit their mold. My first oncologist asked me if I had any questions after he gave me my diagnosis. "Yes," I said. "Can I keep playing agility with my dogs?"
He was dumbfounded. Surely that wasn't my only question after being told I had stage IV lung cancer that was not operable and couldn't be radiated. But, it was. I wanted to know if I could keep living my life. Then and now, I have chosen to live with the attitude that cancer does not define me and I hope it never does.
Staying true to who I am
Sometimes I have a difficult time writing these blogs. I tend to write more research-based blogs that are designed to help others with ways to fight nausea or constipation or other side effects from treatment than personal stories. I don't write a lot of personal stories because I don't feel like I have anything of interest to write. I just live my life, basically the same as I did before I was diagnosed. There's no story there.
Or is there? Since I have dedicated myself to bringing hope to those who come after me on this journey, is there not encouragement to see that, in fact, cancer does not have to stop you from living?
I know some people try to hide the fact that they have cancer, particularly the greatly stigmatized lung cancer. I wear it like a badge. I want people to see me working out and know that yes, I have lung cancer, and yes, I still smile and laugh and have a great time. And, yes, I still work out. I'm still me!
Facing every new day with laughter
I went to work out at a place that is just for cancer patients. The girl who ran the program commented that I sure laugh a lot. I told her that the day I quit laughing was the last day she would ever see me. If I am not having fun, I'm not going to spend my time doing it (unless it is treatment day ... and even that I try to make as much fun as possible). I am dedicated to trying to enjoy as much of every day as possible. It can't always be done, but more times than not, there is something to appreciate about a day. It just isn't always as easy to find.
So, "It's about the journey." There are ups and downs during the journey; everyone has them whether they have cancer or not. But cancer has taught me to wake up every morning ready to tackle the new day that God has given me with joy and anticipation.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?