Anyone with Lungs
Last updated: September 2022
When I was diagnosed with stage 3b non-small cell lung cancer in 2014 I had just turned 30 the prior September. I had a lot of thoughts running through my head and the most prominent one was “why me”. I think we all stumble upon this question in some form or another after a diagnosis of this caliber. I could not fathom the idea that I, an otherwise healthy young adult that went to the gym a few days a week and ate in moderation, would be diagnosed with lung cancer.
Finding purpose in my lung cancer diagnosis
I remember my dad’s reaction to my diagnosis as something that I had never seen from him before. My dad does not show a lot of emotion and he uses very colorful language to get his point across most of the time. But at this moment I had seen him scared and trying to (along with all of us) figure out why his daughter and not him was diagnosed with lung cancer. Like a lot of people out there his thought process pointed to the idea that he had a smoking history, not his 30-year-old daughter. He told me that there was a reason that I was diagnosed and that was so that I could help others.
I did not jump into any sort of lung cancer advocacy right away. I needed to process some information and feelings on my own before I could even think about helping others. Advocacy can be so many different things. I started out by attending conferences, my first was to Hope Summit hosted by Lungevity Foundation in 2015. In hindsight, I was very ill and should not have been leaving my house let alone traveling to Washington, DC. But I made the trip along with my sister. I remember it so well and I met so many new people who were also going through a lung cancer diagnosis. I met some of the people who would end up being the first people that I would have to experience the loss of.
Gaining valuable experiences living with cancer
Over the years I have gained some valuable experiences. I have had multiple treatments and multiple types of treatments. I have participated in two clinical trials, one local and one halfway across the country. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I was diagnosed young. I have encountered too many losses, many gone too soon. All of this has shaped the lung cancer advocate that I am today.
I participate in as many focus groups as I can. They have ranged from talking about how I felt about lung cancer, and how I managed through two clinical trials, to participating in a process to get more funding.
I also participate in one-on-one advocacy. I am a phone buddy for multiple organizations, and I have seen firsthand how speaking with someone close in age that is also going through lung cancer has benefited the newly diagnosed. I have always said that I am a phone buddy because I want to be the person that I needed when I was diagnosed.
I share the information that I have gathered in the best way that I know-how. I participate in Facebook groups that are catered to lung cancer. I am an active participant in the Lung Cancer Reddit community.
No matter what...cancer is hard
Cancer is hard to go through at any age. Each one of us can tell a story about all that we have been through. I am happy to be able to support the newly diagnosed, to share my experiences as a young adult with a disease very rarely found in someone my age, and scream from the rooftops “anyone with lungs can get lung cancer!”
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?