My Story: A Newfound Hope
On October 19, 2017, I heard the words, "You have cancer". I thought it was a death sentence, but I have learned that we treat lung cancer as a chronic disease instead of a death sentence.
The CT scan that saved my life
In August of 2017, I had a female problem to the tune of a Bartholin Cyst. For your own good, I will not be posting any diagrams or going into detail as to what that is. I had no clue myself. Thankfully, I happen to have an appointment with my OB/GYN already set to have pre-op for laparoscopy. When the tech sent me to have a sonogram, I was quick to say that we were not doing that. Long story short, I was admitted to the women's hospital. My doctor ordered an abdominal CT prior to me going to the hospital for admission. THIS CT SAVED MY LIFE. It was that CT that caught the lower portion of my lungs and nodules were visible.
The nodules were not mentioned to me until I went for my checkup after being discharged from the hospital. At this time, my doctor informed me that those nodules were more than likely a result of my severe infection and had probably gone away, but he wanted to do a full chest CT to be sure. He called me himself to tell me that those nodules were still very present and that we needed to get this figured out.
Doctors didn't know what to make of those nodules
Off to a pulmonary specialist I go. A bronchoscope and a needle biopsy were both non-conclusive. All of this time, I was being told that it wasn't cancer, but they needed to find the reason for there being over 100 nodules 1 mm or less spread across both lungs. At this point, I was so frustrated that I was just ready to give up. I just recently started a new job and was literally missing more days that I worked it felt like. Thankfully, they were understanding.
The pulmonary specialist punted me to a thoracic surgeon. My meeting with the thoracic surgeon was terrifying. Little did I know this was the beginning of the revolving door in and out of doctors' offices.
Waiting for my test results...
The thoracic surgeon explained what he was going to do which was to collapse my lungs and remove sections of my lungs to determine what exactly this was in my lungs. I was literally scared to death as I had never had any real surgery every in my life and although this wasn't major surgery, being told my lungs were going to be collapsed was enough. I was told we would have answers when I woke up from the procedure. WRONG!! The entire thoracic team didn't have answers. My pathology was sent to Mayo Clinic in Arizona for review.
The thoracic surgeon tricked me a little. They called me and said that he was going on vacation and asked to see me early to check my incisions from the procedure and where the chest tube was. So, off I go in my work clothes prepared to go to work that afternoon. This is going to be easy. I got this. I was alone that day. The day that life as I knew it changed forever.
"A rare form of lung cancer...I'm sorry"
The surgeon came in. Looked behind the door and asked if I was by myself today. Right then -- I knew. My heart rate went up. My palms got sweaty. My muscles started trembling uncontrollably almost. I knew. I didn't even have to listen. I just knew. I remember saying to myself -- "Don't lose it...you can press through". I held tight to my own hands.
The surgeon very nonchalantly blurted "Sweetheart, these are tumors. A rare form of lung cancer. I'm sorry. The nurse will get your set up with an oncologist. Any questions?" That was it. He blurted out words that felt like the sucker punch of my life because it was as if he ordering his lunch at the cafeteria. I couldn't say anything. I just shook my head. My own heartbeat was deafening. The nurse said she would be right back. I grabbed my path report to attempt to find the diagnosis and sent a text to my friend that works for that hospital these doctors were affiliated with. She told me to ask for a specific oncologist and I did. My phone screen was soaked. The nurse came back in with my referral. She said she'd be praying for me. I thanked her. "Have a nice day" she said. HOW?! I thought.
Grief of self is unexplainable
I walked out of that room to the checkout desk. The ladies were laughing, drinking their coffee, discussing their weekend. They asked me how I was doing and I felt like I was going to pass out. I remember exactly what the carpet tiles looked like because I wouldn't look up. I don't think I ever said anything. My world just crashed and these people are getting to live their life normally I thought. The world felt as though it was passing me while I was sitting dead still.
I walked out of that building. My car was parked at the very back of the parking lot. I felt like I had cement blocks for shoes. I don't remember the walk. I got to my car. I heard the click of the door and I wailed as if someone had just died.
They had in a sense. My own life as I knew it. Grief of self is unexplainable. If there was anyone nearby, they heard me. There was talk about my case and it was mentioned how tough I was in the office that day. OHHHH but you should have followed me to my car. I was a mess. I made phone calls and squeaked out "It's cancer" as best I could. I literally crushed those that love me too on that day with no control of my own to do one thing about it.
From my grief came hope
The questions were endless. I was exhausted from thinking. I was exhausted from crying. I was exhausted from wondering and hoping. How am I here? The panic in the middle of the night was more than debilitating. The fear was louder than anything I have ever experienced. The uncontrollable crying at work, at home, at church, at the grocery was debilitating as well.
Then I connected with people living and thriving with cancer. Then I learned that I had a mutation that was specific to a brand new targeted therapy. I could take a pill and keep living my life. I could keep my hair and eyebrows and eyelashes. I got this!! HOPE was being born.
I began to be thankful that I was able to find out about my cancer. I began to be thankful for my oral chemo that is still working 27 months later at the time of this post. God has been with me through it all. He's walked every step of the way with me. He's allowed me LIVE! He keeps waking me up every day. I have a strength that I know ONLY comes from God.
The journey isn’t easy, but it isn’t all bad either
Cancer isn't the end. However, I am grateful for the perspective shift to live each day with intent and gratefulness.
If you have been newly added to the club or are walking alongside someone that had been newly added to the club this journey isn’t easy, but it isn’t all bad either. I try to cling to hope. My days were numbered long before cancer. I am grateful that I am forced to think about it now whereas I had not previously.
Where have you found the most support during your lung cancer journey?