When I hear the term, "long-term survivor", I think of getting old. In reality, in our world, long-term survivor is someone who lives beyond their life expectancy. To me, it feels like someone who has lived with stage 4 lung cancer for longer than 5 years. There are pros and cons to this type of survival.
The pros and cons
The pros are obvious I guess. You get to spend more time with family and friends, experience more journeys, and just have more fun. Live each precious moment...but are they all precious?
The cons are not so obvious to the newer patients. One problem is the everlasting worry in the back of your mind. When is the other shoe going to drop? When will it be me in the hospital again? In fact, Lung Caner Alliance came out with an article claiming that long-term lung cancer survivors have more of an emotional toll than physical toll placed on them.
I think the most mentally challenging hurdle is survivor's guilt. I have been off the grid for a while. Losing the two closest lung cancer friends I have to this monster has nearly destroyed me. Nicole passed in February and my soul sister, Kelly Shannon, passed in July. Kelly was full of life and she promised she would never go anywhere. Of course, we can't promise anything with this diagnosis. It makes it so hard, especially with a family. She had two young boys. My daughter is now 13 and there is nothing on this earth that could possibly make me want to leave her.
I was fortunate to be able to attend both "going home" parties. They weren't your typical southern baptist funerals. I felt closure to some extent. The sadness didn't envelope me at the time. I felt they were blessed to be out of pain and free to live their eternal life freely and without pain and sadness.
Since then, I feel I've been drifting. I no longer had that soul sister to call or text in the middle of the day or night to talk about EVERYTHING with. I'm going to have to wait and see her on the other side. I still cry, which is selfish of me. I know she's in a far better place, in no pain with no heartache. But, I miss her so much it is gut wrenching.
Finding new meaning through loss
So, I feel alone now. I know God is always with me. But this feeling of being alone has me in a funk that I'm struggling to get out of. There is no way around this con unless you quit talking to your lung cancer people, which is not going to happen. But be prepared, because not only are you dealing with your own mortality, but you are losing friends in the process. And so far, of all the treatments, this has been by far the hardest thing to endure.
I took a leap of faith and started a page for patients only to share. It's Lung Cancer Awareness *Fresh Air*. It's on facebook and for patients only. We need each other and we need to share. Please join us if you are a patient needing a safe place.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?