Lung Cancer: Now It Is Personal
You always hear people say, “Don’t take it so personally”. Before you are diagnosed with lung cancer you never think it can happen to you. Since I was diagnosed, I have learned that just about anyone can get lung cancer. It is not a disease that only strikes the old and it is not a disease that only affects those that have a smoking history. It can be diagnosed in a somewhat healthy 30-year-old female, like me. It can also be diagnosed in someone younger than 18. It affects people who run marathons and people of all colors, races, and identities. All you need is lungs to get lung cancer. I attended two lung cancer walks prior to being diagnosed and not once did I think that I would one day be there as a survivor.
I take the stigma personal
There are a few things since I have been diagnosed that I now do take personally. I take the stigma and the way many people think about lung cancer personally. The way we think about lung cancer en masse is what will ultimately steer many important deciding decisions. The way we think about lung cancer will keep it as the most underfunded cancer per death when it comes to research dollars. We need to stop blaming those diagnosed for getting lung cancer as if whatever they have done in their lifetime or specific environmental factors that they have come across is their fault for being diagnosed. Looking at the NCI budget for lung cancer over the past few years it has received only a fraction of the budget compared to other cancers however, it is still the leading cancer killer in America. Specific statistics can be found via many of the leading lung cancer organizations as well as government sources.
Lung cancer impacts our mental health
Lung cancer has affected my mental health, and I take that personally. I have always said that I have a good grasp on my mental health, rock-solid if you will. But over the years and with each CT scan it has only gotten harder to deal with. The weight of a lung cancer diagnosis, treatment, and living with the disease is heavy. At my most recent scan appointment, my oncologist and I spoke very briefly about the CT scan itself and then the remainder of the appointment was talking about dealing with the disease that I did not ask for and no longer want. It is silly because I have never ‘wanted’ lung cancer, I just do not want it anymore. I pushed my scan appointment back by two months because I did not want to travel into the city and “waste” and good vacation day. This may not have been the best decision on my part, but it was for my mental health. Asking for help is not weak and I will be speaking with a therapist to continue the conversation and to process the very difficult emotions that have come up.
All you need are lungs
The most important thing that I have learned since I was diagnosed is that anyone with lungs (read: everyone) has the chance to be diagnosed with lung cancer at some point in their lifetime. It is about time that this disease gets better funding so that we can in turn develop better treatments. A cancer that is killing so many people annually needs to be addressed. If we all start screaming from the rooftops, will they hear us?
Where have you found the most support during your lung cancer journey?