Read Part 1 of Anita and Karen’s discussion here.
You are active online, notably with your “Trekking Through Cancerland” Facebook page. What role does advocacy play in your life?
As I have grown more active over the past few years as a patient advocate, I have built a Facebook and Twitter presence. Mostly, in these online settings, I try to share up-to-date happenings in the world of lung cancer research and human interest stories. My goal is to provide both education and hope to my subscribers. In addition to these outlets, I accept speaking opportunities whenever they present themselves. There are many lung cancer patients around the country, but very few who are available to share first-hand experiences about living and dealing with this disease. I literally feel like this is an obligation, a mission, for me.
What are your thoughts on dating and romance for single people who have stage IV lung cancer?
I believe this is quite individual in nature, but I suspect many single people with stage 4 disease probably feel uneasy about starting new romantic relationships. First, the question is always in our minds about how long we may survive, and this leads to wondering if it is fair to put someone in the position of potentially falling in love with expected heartbreak on the horizon. Second, there is always the uncomfortable question of whether to tell someone right up front about one’s disease and risk them fleeing right away, or not telling them for a while until something begins to get serious and risk them feeling a lack of trust as a result.
One friend has told me she plans to be bold and blunt. If they run away, good for ’em. She’ll move on to the next until the right connection is made. That’s a good outlook, but sometimes harder to put into practice than it sounds.
Is there anything you feel you miss out on as you go through your lung cancer experience because you are single and unattached?
Fortunately, as an introvert, I am generally comfortable spending most of my time alone. That said, however, I do miss having someone at hand to talk to, not only about lung cancer, but just about the mundane things in life. Sometimes that is even more important in order to divert one’s mind away from the challenges and trials relating to ongoing treatments and side effects.
I miss having a companion to travel with. When I was diagnosed 4 1/2 years ago and learned of the bleak statistics surrounding lung cancer, particularly stage 4 disease, I thought a good bit about taking life by the horns and checking off bucket list items. After all, more than most, people in my shoes know that time is of the essence. But, it’s so much more fun to experience things with others rather than solo, and as a single person, it can be a challenge to find partners for big adventures.
Do you have any final thoughts about being single while battling lung cancer?
I would encourage others in similar circumstances to be proactive. If you need to find transportation to and from appointments, don’t wait for others to offer. Seek help. Find a Stephens Ministry in your community. They’ll help at no cost to you. If you find yourself too sick to make your meals or care for your house and yard, talk to your minister. Ask your friends for help. If you just need someone to talk to, pick up the phone or sit down at your computer and make the contacts.
In my experience, very few people approach me. I tell myself it is because they see me as highly independent and it simply doesn’t occur to them. Whatever the reason, I know that as a single person, it’s not likely to happen if I don’t make it happen. Don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid. As Nike says, “Just do it!”