Advocate Spotlight: Rhonda
LungCancer.net shares the stories and experiences of people living with lung cancer. We are highlighting the story of our advocate Rhonda who supports her husband with lung cancer. Since her husband's diagnosis, Rhonda has been dedicated to supporting others and advocating for greater lung cancer awareness.
Jeff's lung cancer diagnosis
My husband Jeff was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer during harvest of 2015. Jeff is a retired firefighter/paramedic and a farmer. The discovery of his diagnosis was during a routine annual physical. Jeff was in great physical health but mentioned having a lingering non-productive cough. While a chest X-ray noted a nodule on the lung, it was harvest time, and a decision was made to wait. No one, including our medical team, suspected a healthy, young, man with minimal symptoms and no known risks could already have stage IV lung cancer.
Like many, we will never forget the day we heard the words stage IV lung cancer, terminal; our disbelief was real. How could this be true; public health education had taught us that lung cancer was preventable? We went from planning retirement to planning wills, from fighting over room in our bed to not being able to be close enough. There were little words and a lot of tears!
Lessons from caregiving
The biggest lesson I have learned as Jeff’s sharegiver is the lack of education within the medical community about the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Advances in research and treatments for lung cancer have been growing at a rapid pace in the past 10 years but sadly, no one is accountable for ensuring all who treat lung cancer know how to treat appropriately.
Advances in treatment of lung cancer are worthless if not utilized! Many seek local care and many of us believe all medical professionals are equal. Initially, we never thought to question the education level and experience in treating lung cancer.
Our saving grace was joining a support group; this support family became a wealth of knowledge that ultimately aided us in ensuring Jeff is receiving appropriate treatments. Join a support group! Second opinions are a must! Add a lung cancer specialist to your medical team, and question everything!
Choosing to be joyful eases the fear
Living with lung cancer is not a race, it is a marathon. The physical and emotional toll is compared to a long day at an amusement park – exhausting, moments of joy interlaced with anxiety and fear. We are five years into our marathon and now I focus on finding joy. It is important as a sharegiver to find a joyful heart.
For years, we stopped living because Jeff has terminal cancer. We wasted many moments! I recall the day we changed our philosophy, Jeff said “If I didn’t have cancer, I would buy a new combine!” Research and treatment development has made it possible for us to LIVE with lung cancer. Jeff has been on three targeted therapies, in one clinical trial and we have had 3 years of progression-free disease! We both know the reality of his diagnosis, but choosing to be joyful eases the fear. I am inspired by all those who helped us, participate in clinical trials, and to all the stories I have witnessed who no longer have the capability to live. It is these relationships that inspire my involvement in lung cancer advocacy!
And YES, we bought the combine!
Something you may not know about me...
Jeff and I just purchased our dream retirement home in Florida!
Do you have a pet?