A person who is handcuffed by lung cancer awareness ribbons

When Freedom is Stripped from You

Last updated: January 2022

Looking back at my life before lung cancer, it seems like I had so many more freedoms. While I realize that even on a cancer journey, I have the freedom to make decisions and choose things for my life, there are many things that are ripped from us. I want to share some of those freedoms that I feel have robbed me.

Peace

Peace. While I was a worrier before lung cancer, that anxiety has definitely amped up. I worry about my health obviously, but also finances, the next holiday, the next birthday, being a burden to my family and my husband. I fear the shift. The longer I go on my first-line therapy - How Does Cost Influence Lung Cancer Management? the more I worry about resistance.

Then the worry creates an emotional trigger that also affects my physical body, and we call that stress. I try not to let it consume me to the point of debilitating me. I understand what it means to “lace up your boots” and try to keep going and I have done that many times.

Parenthood

Parenthood. I was 36 years only and only 18 months into my marriage when told I had an incurable disease. My husband and I had discussed family planning and were ready to grow our family. I felt guilty immediately when told to not get pregnant. Nobody discussed anything further with me. The unfinished room in our home we’d just moved into was sitting and waiting to become a nursery.

Buying things

Buying things. I realize that I simply can’t stop living on this journey, but when I think about long-term investments like buying a car, it really bothers me. I see the number of years to finance and where I wouldn’t think twice about financing a vehicle for three years - I now look at it differently.

I am forced to think if I will even be here in that amount of time. Will I even have that much time to pay for the thing? I am well aware that I didn’t know the answer to this question before cancer but being forced to think about it now takes on a whole new perspective for me. Does it mean that I don’t go get a new car? No, it doesn’t. It just means that the things that I didn’t really think about before have a different meaning today.

Career

Career. Before cancer, I worked in the court system as a victim advocate for domestic violence. I learned to love court and I loved to hate offenders of violence. I wanted so badly to return to school and represent victims needing someone to fight for them and to be their voice. I had begun looking into colleges and looking into the LSAT.

Many might say that I can still do that, and you are correct. I just didn’t feel that it was my journey after my cancer diagnosis. I didn’t have the energy to maintain my full-time job not to mention complete very difficult research courses and hours of writing and ultimately obtain a degree and go practice to my fullest abilities.

Daily life

Daily Life. I remember the little things that I took for granted in just daily activities. Things like showering and getting dressed in full business attire complete with dress pants and heels. I loved to dress and loved heels. I am doing good if I get dressed once a week these days.

Then there are the frequent doctor appointments. I never went to the doctor except for routine things or an occasional sinus infection. Now it’s part of my reality and will never go away. I often sit in the doctor’s office waiting for a scan or waiting for labs or waiting for the doctor and think how in the world did I get there. How is this my new reality? It seems as though everything is planned around my next scans or next appointment - often leading to new appointments with additional doctors or specialists.

For the loss, I have gained a lot too

Although so much feels like it was stripped from me, I have gained a lot too. I have gained friends that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I have found strength within myself that I likely would have never discovered. I have learned to say no. I have learned that it’s ok to stay in bed all day if I need to. Life was never easy before - I just didn’t have the perspective shift that I have now. I understand intentional living and gratitude more so than ever before.

I suppose that’s freedom in and of itself.

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