Making it to My Daughter's Senior Year with Lung Cancer
Last updated: December 2022
My journey with lung cancer began before I knew about it. I was always tired but always tried to make everything fun for my little girl, Karley. In 2011 her father and I split. I had a neck tumor that had to be removed that year. The biopsy results came back negative for malignancy.
After the tumor that sporadically showed up was removed, I began to get headaches. They were awful. I know Karley's father and many mothers thought I was lazy. But I did all I could to make her childhood as memorable as possible.
Our last vacation before my lung cancer diagnosis
The last vacation I took her on before our whole world changed, we went to Walt Disney World. It was epic. Before we left, I saw my doctor for pain that continued in my side and arm. My doctor concluded I had kidney stones. Once again, I got pain pills.
Walt Disney World was exhausting, but I would give anything to go back to those days. These days were ones where we were innocent to the ways of cancer. We were free from worry, scans, and death. But at the mere age of 7, my daughter's world turned upside down - as did mine.
We went on that vacation in May 2012. The weekend after Thanksgiving that same year, the headaches proved their strength. After months of fighting fatigue, headaches, pain in many different areas, and a tolerance for high pain medication, I lost my sight.
My pain was finally taken seriously
Thankfully I was in Atlanta at the time, and they didn't just give me pills. They gave me an MRI. They didn't blame it on migraines but instead pulled a picture of the MRI and said, "There is an area of matter that suggests a tumor. Your brain has shifted, and we need to do emergency surgery. We have a neurologist at Piedmont Atlanta on standby and will be transferring you there now."
I can't remember most of the days leading up to surgery, but I remember recovery so clearly. I was walking one of my employees through the payroll process in the recovery room after my craniotomy. It was so clear as to what I was doing. The few months prior, I was literally floating through. I was never getting to work on time because of the fatigue. I was messing up at my job and falling behind on my responsibilities, but for the first time in forever, I began to think clearly. It was like a fog lifted.
My diagnosis didn't give me much hope for the future
The doctors came in to tell me the devastating news. I had stage 4 lung cancer. Of course, my friends and I were all googling survival statistics. It was very grim. I asked the oncologist how long I had to live. He replied, "12-18 months" was his best "guess."
I chose to fight
I could feel my world collapsing around me. My baby was in second grade and only seven years old. I had to be here for her. I knew then that I would fight, no matter how hard it was or what it took. So, after two recurrences leading to radiation, three pulmonary embolisms, and four strokes (one of them leaving me temporarily paralyzed on the left side). All I could do was react to everything being thrown at me and try to wrap my head around the fact that I had a year to finish my life.
Fighting lung cancer has been paying off
The most amazing thing happened. Season after season began going by. I was hitting milestone after milestone, although each year was a fight. And as I'm writing this, I'm also filling out a FASFA form for my little girl to go to college. She starts her senior year in a few days.
In the beginning, I never thought I would have made it so far. But now, I am so excited. Of course, I'm sad, like any other regular mom. But I got to be here for everything. And now, we are working on which college she wants to attend. I praise God for this miracle of a life I've been given, and I don't take it for granted. I was given a second chance, I am fortunate, but we have a long way to go.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?