A woman looking out over the peak of a mountain she has climbed

Climbing the Milestones: My Lung Cancer Journey

When I think about my circumstances and how far I've come, I've realized how blessed I am. The lung cancer milestones I've surpassed are praiseworthy. I know I may say that a lot, but I've had a wonderful life.

In all things, do not be discouraged

When Karley was 7, in second grade, I was diagnosed. It was the year my dad left up his Christmas tree, vowing it wouldn't come down until the cancer was gone. I didn't have the heart to convey that this was an EGFR mutation. In order to go away, we would have change my DNA. So, I let him have that dream while I kept my dreams close to my heart.

Be the best version of yourself

And when he passed last year, I finally took his tree down. My blood was not even showing levels of cancer so it seemed like a good time. I cried and was going to keep it. Suddenly a second-grade teacher reached out on the marketplace for a Christmas tree for her classroom, I didn't hesitate. My dad loved Christmas and these kids were in the same grade Karley was when she found out about my cancer. We had to tell her mommy may be an angel soon.

The teacher also lost her father last year as well. It is no coincidence we met. I don't believe in coincidences anyway. She promised to send pictures every Christmas with the kids around my dad's tree each Christmas. I know he is smiling down from heaven, with the knowledge that he was able to bring these kids hope and joy.

Don't give up on your dreams

Growing up, I wanted children. So many couples are unable to have children but God blessed me with one at a young age. If I had waited until my 30's, my baby may not be here today. My next goal was to get married and finally be successful in whatever came my way. I feel like I accomplished all of these.

You see, some people are born with disabilities or suffer life-altering accidents that can't be fixed. I had 33 wonderful years before the Grim Reaper came looking for me. And so far, I praise God he hasn't found me.

Being diagnosed at 33 and realizing I will be 43 this year makes me appreciate the little things so much more. My daughter has gone from 2nd grade facing my illness to a senior in high school. I can't believe I'm helping her make college plans! Like Matthew 19:26 tells us, "With God, all things are possible."

If you look close enough, you will find the silver lining

Please don't get this confused with the notion that God will answer all of your prayers. He won't, but in those uncertain times, He wants you to lean on him for solace, understanding, and peace.

My goals have been simple, along with so many others. I wanted to see Karley out of elementary school, be there for the tough years of middle school, and become her biggest cheerleader in high school. And in a little over a year, I will see her off to college. God has not forsaken me and He knows she still needs me. There are so many things she has yet to learn about adulting, and as mad as she may get, I can't wait to teach her.

Finding my inner strength

So when people hear me say, "I have stage 4 lung cancer", the sympathy always comes out along with "you're too young!" But, in all reality, I'm not too young. Bad things happen to young people every day. It's sad to know how young they were. I believe Karley growing up with the notion I have cancer and could not be here tomorrow has made her one of the most passionate and caring young ladies I have ever met.

Screw you cancer, you think you got the best of me but I am surpassing these milestones. But you didn't, God and Karley did. As did my parents, family, and friends. Cancer, it took a while! But you made me the best version of myself. I stop and smell the flowers and watch the beautiful sunrise over the ocean. Life isn't passing me by anymore. I'm living it to the fullest. And I know they always say your daughter shouldn't also be your best friend, well, too late. I may not get to be around when she's older, so I'll take her as a best friend now and go ahead and conquer that milestone too.

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