A man leaves darkness behind and walks through a door to a bright sky

What Saved My Life From Lung Cancer?

I've been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer for six years. For the first three years, I was a different person as compared to now. I was often puzzled about how I "awakened" and what caused such an "awakening"? There were no wise guys or wise ladies to save me, and nothing specular happened since I was diagnosed with lung cancer. It had bothered me since, and just six months ago, I started to put things together.

Lost for the first few years

Having lung cancer is nothing I can compare. Besides the physical pain, I endured unbelievable mental pain. There is a Chinese proverb: time can cure all the wound, both physically and mentally. I respectfully disagree. Physical wound maybe, but mentally, it's impossible.

As I got lung cancer, like all mothers, the first thing that occurred to me was what would happen to my children. I felt guilty and sorry that I couldn't be there for my children. At the time, I didn't think much about prognoses, and to me, lung cancer is an immediate death sentence. Just the thought that I wouldn't be there for my children was too depressed to think further.

The second trauma I experienced, meanwhile, was an indescribable feeling of defeat, embarrassment, and depression. Very quickly, I slipped into isolation. Several of my female colleagues were very friendly and reached out to me to be fair, but I push them away.

I had no feeling to read, watch TV and movies and listen to music in those three years. If it was not because of my husband and my mother, I don't think I could keep my mental sanity.

Awakened at the end of the third year

One day in the two-and-half-year of my diagnosis, I found that I couldn't see very well, and within two weeks, I totally lost vision in both of my eyes. It was because of the massive use of steroid (dexamethasone) due to the treatment of my brain metastasis. It took the doctors eight months to cure my eyes due to the long waiting list in Canada.

I found losing my eyesight was the most devastating in my life, even worse than lung cancer and semi-right hemiplegia (due to my lung cancer metastatic to my brain). I remembered that, at the time, I thought that if I could gain my eyesight back, I would take life seriously – I would LIVE even if it were a short time. I started to regret that I wasted time for the first three years.

That's it. Eight months later, I gained my eyesight back. More importantly, I was awakened.

Reinventing myself and finding my purpose

After the doctors saved my eyesight, I looked at my life with a new lens. I didn't plan to go back to continue being a professor. My close friends, even my husband, and children sounded unbelievable because I was so devoted to science and engineering. However, I believe having cancer is like God give me a second chance of living. How boring to repeat life. I would live anyways I desired since it's a lifetime opportunity.

I didn't consider advocating for lung cancer at the beginning, but it drew me into it. I have tried different advocacy, from volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society on various advocating tasks, attending national and international (lung) cancer conferences, fundraising, and contributing and moderating lung cancer articles raising patients' voices.

I involved in the Research Committee for Lung Cancer Canada to review the research grants and get involved in cancer research. I was also trained to be a Patient Research Advocate by IASLC and Conquer Cancer Grant Reviewer Training Pilot for ASCO to review research applications.

To make a long story short, I'm a devoting advocate now, spending most of my time on cancer advocacy. Meanwhile, I'm fulfilling my dreams that I didn't get a chance to do, like certain disciplinary that I want to explore, arts and culinary cultures.

What saved me?

It's crucial to find out what has happened in the last several years and my "awakening". Losing my eyesight was a trigger to my "awakening". It made me re-think and re-evaluate my life. I also noticed that the first three years' suffering was not in vain for my “awakening”. It pulled me out of the three years’ hell without outside help.

If anybody has a similar experience, I strongly suggest getting help if you can. It's too long to waste three years wandering around in the dark place.

Can you relate to Christine?

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