A woman looking at her reflection in a calendar

Reflections On My 6th Cancerversary

It has been 6 years since I was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer metastatic to the brain. In these 6 years, I have seen too many lung cancer patients passing away. I can’t help thinking why the treatment works for some patients, but not for others? I wrote down my experience here. Hopefully, it will help some patients out there.

Recalling my lung cancer experience

For the first 3 years, I was struggling with lung cancer and its side effects. I had an awakening moment at the end of the third year - I turned blind due to the steroid used for my brain tumor. That was the lowest of low during my cancer journey. I decided to live even just for a short time then. I was awakened and the rest was history. I wrote the blog of my six yours’ cancer journey.1

Looking beyond medical treatments

I have to attribute that recent years’ research changed the (lung) cancer landscape. I’m also lucky that I have an incredible oncologist, who asked me to do biomarker testing. In 2015, biomarker testing is not popular in Canada. My doctor put me on a right track.

However, it doesn’t answer the question of why the same treatment failed miserably for some patients but triumphed for others? It’s important to look at it beyond medicine.

Determination makes a difference

I’m a determined person. It’s my trait. If I was convinced about something, I’ll pursue and persist in it. Otherwise, I will not do it even if they are from my parents or loved ones.

For example, I’m convinced that exercising PSG (PingShuaiGong, a soft Chinese martial art) and meditation are good for my health.2,3 I religiously practise them seven days per week. For three years now, my CT and MRI scans are excellent, especially, from the last two MRI scans, my sergeant was surprised that my two brain tumors are shrinking. Keeping in mind that I’m still on the first line of targeted therapy for the past five and half years.

Desire and instinct to survive

I found lung cancer in the Emergency Room after an MRI scan of my brain tumor in 2015. The situation was dyer because both lung cancer and brain tumors were quite large. When checking the ward, the doctor told the residents that it was a serious case. I couldn’t help feeling that I didn’t have much time left.

I remembered, at the moment, I wanted to fight just to prove that the doctor was wrong. Although the thought lasted just one second, I couldn’t forget the feeling. I guess this is the so-called desire and instinct to survive. Since the doctor had given me the death sentence, I wanted to live and what else would I lose?

Becoming a leader

If I see my cancer care team as an army, I will be the “chief commander”. During the first three years, I couldn’t think and do anything, but I saw my husband fighting for me, asking all kinds of questions, and challenging the doctors for possible treatments. Now I took over and become a “chief commander”.

To be a “chief commander”, I have to educate myself to be a knowledgeable patient. This takes me to read lung cancer papers, attend doctors’ webinars and zoom meetings, go to conferences and get all the possible contact with doctors directly. I also expanded my knowledge beyond my ROS1+ lung cancer because everything is connected.

Philosophical thought and reflection

I didn’t have any religions and philosophies in my life. I used to believe in myself, i.e., if I wanted something enough and if I worked hard enough, I would be successful. However, through my cancer journey, I learned that there is something more powerful than me. I strive and struggle for success, but I have to learn to conform and give in sometimes.

Look inward and find stregnth

Now let me answer the question: why the treatment worked for me, but not for some patients? I didn’t do anything specular, even not as good as some patients. I believe everything has internal causes and external causes, and the internal causes are the true drives to make things work. Quite often, people look at the external cause, as the diet or doctors or type of exercise...you have to find the internal causes of lung cancer by yourself, and nobody can teach you.

It’s like an anonymous quote: “Looking from the outside in, you can never understand it. Standing on the inside looking out you can never explain it.”

In my view, you have to do your own tough thinking and find your own internal causes.

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