The Risks Beyond Lung Cancer with Lung Cancer
Last updated: August 2020
Sometimes just having lung cancer seems like enough, right? It complicated enough, but then there are the added scares. I am not talking about progression. I am speaking of all of the other issues that having cancer causes as well as the side effects of treatment.
I remember thinking how difficult cancer seemed and then I started realizing and personally experiencing some of the other things that come with this whole ordeal. It’s overwhelming, to be honest.
We're told to avoid pregnancy
First of all, if you are like me and inside childbearing years, you are told a million times from every doctor you encounter to avoid pregnancy at all costs. Then immediately asked what type of birth control you are on. It seems ironic that the very warning label is blood clots on birth control and a lung cancer patient is more susceptible to pulmonary embolisms as well as other types of blood clots. Talk about major confusion. Sorry gentleman. This is just real life over here.
Reducing my risk of stroke
Secondly, there’s the whole stroke thing. A stroke is possible at any point for a healthy person but throw lung cancer in there and it elevates. Every time I go to the doctor, my blood pressure is high. I chalk it up to the white coat syndrome, but then again, I think maybe it’s my own fault. So, off the salt, more exercise and watching every morsel of food that goes into my body and monitor my own blood pressure at home. We live with so many restrictions as it is, but in my opinion, cancer can sometimes pale in comparison to a stroke. A dear friend passed away from complications of a stroke and it’s so very serious.
Weight gain is another link to stroke, but clinical studies have shown greater response to my drug in those that were slightly overweight compared to those that were not. Then with weight gain comes other stressors of the body like diabetes and heart disease. The double-edged sword. So many can’t eat and are continually losing weight despite their effort to gain, so I often think that it’s just completely fine to eat the piece of cake.
Then there's possible heart, kidney and liver complications
Thirdly, there’s the issue of kidneys and liver having severe damage due to our treatment side effects. We need both to live, but what do we do? We need the medication to combat our cancer, but we risk kidney failure. Sometimes it’s too much to think about.
Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could just fight cancer with our medication without the fear of these other things? Reading that a side effect of one of my current medications could possibly cause my heart to quit beating or heart issues is quite daunting. Can we just receive our treatment and it does its job without causing other toxicities and damages in the body? How wonderful that would be.
The mental blocks are real
Then I think of the mental block in it all. I find things that I have left in random places and ask who put this here -- it was me and I don’t even recall it. As I write this article, I have to think extra hard to recall some words.
Chemo brain is a real thing. Someone said that the mental block didn’t occur for those on TKIs and I have to beg to differ because I am so dumb sometimes. I often feel inept in social settings because I can’t seem to recall words in the middle of a conversation. I have notes written everywhere just so I can keep up.
You have to pick your battles
We all keep going somehow. There have been some things my doctor has advised that I declined respectfully. I didn’t want another pill on top of my already cocktail that could quite possibly cause me even more issues. Some ailments you just can’t avoid while others can be adjusted by lifestyle and that is the approach that I have chosen many times for myself.
What gives us the best quality of life?
We all have to very diligent in our own advocacy and our own health. It’s very wise to research on your own. I have found it very comforting to discuss things with others and talk it out. There isn’t any cookie-cutter recipe for what will or won’t work across the board. My oncologist isn’t going to talk to me about nutrition. He treats cancer. He isn’t going to talk to me about my blood pressure unless completely off the charts. He treats cancer.
We have to be active in our own health and understand the best we can the extent of our treatment both conventional and not. I choose to clean up my diet -- not everyone chooses that. We all have to find what works best for us. What gives us the best quality of life? Our views on that vary.
I like to do yoga on the porch while others might want to run a marathon. It’s completely necessary to evaluate every aspect of your health not just physical, but also mental and emotional, and make decisions on the best option for you.
Happy Lung Cancer Awareness Month! What does self-advocacy mean to you?