A woman caring for potted plants in the sun

My Plants and My Journey of Lung Cancer

Last updated: September 2022

For several years, I have had an odd feeling that the survival and prosperity of my plants seemed to go hand in hand with the recurrence or remission of my lung cancer. No matter how many times I deny it, this idea repetitively come back.

Story of my plants

I have had several plants at home for years; some are pretty big and dated way before my lung cancer era. When I was younger, my parents used to help me look after my kids until my kids went to daycare, so I could keep working as a professor. At the time, I had never heard of any maternity or paternity leave at my university. My father used to look after the plants, and they grew very well. After my kids started to go to daycare, my parents had their own life, and it became my responsibility to look after these plants. I wasn't into taking care of the plants, but I watered them once every week. So the plants didn't die, but they were not prosperous either. I guess they were deprived of my TLC (Tender Love Care).

Later, I got lung cancer, and I still remember, one afternoon, sitting in the living room with the plants under the sunshine. I was scared and devastated by the upcoming chemotherapy and unknown future. It was a very depressing time. I couldn't help thinking about the plants in front of me and felt sorry for not taking care of them. Finally, I promised myself I would look after the plants until I died. Keeping in mind, that was the time I had just got lung cancer, and I only had 1.5 years to live, according to the statistics.

It has been seven years since, and I'm still going. I kept my promises to take care of my plants, water them and fertilize them. In addition, my plant family is expanding with several new plants during these years. No plants have died.

My lung cancer journey

I was in terrible shape physically and mentally for the first three years. Thinking about it today, I believe that mental suffering is the most difficult because I can tolerate physical pain or, worst, I can use pain killer, but depression is unbearable.

For the first three years, I was so devastated that I couldn't handle myself. I couldn't remember even one meaningful thing I did to myself during those three years. I regretted now for wasting so much time, and I learned that I could die, but I couldn't waste time feeling sorry for myself.

At the end of the third year, I was reborn to live like everyday matters. In the last four years, I have done everything I wanted, e.g., advocacy for cancer, traveling, visiting museums and art galleries, and experiencing different cultures and cuisines. Cancer advocacy opened my eyes and made me realize that a new world was in front of me. I started with basic activities like talking to newly diagnosed patients with lung cancer, organizing the lung cancer patient support group, fundraising, and political advocacy. Now, I'm actively involved in patient-centered research and reviewing grants for cancer research nationally and internationally.

I also learned balanced life is a good life for my loved ones and me. I don't have time to waste. I enrich myself by living well and making my husband's and my life enjoyable. There is life after lung cancer, and I won't trade my life now for anything. Living well is an art.

How are my plants and cancer journey related?

I didn't purposefully connect my plants and my lung cancer. It just happened that I do these two things simultaneously. First, I remember deep in my mind I care about my plants' well-being like I'm mindful of getting enough sunshine by placing the plants in the right rooms. Before I go to my CT and MRI scans and visit my oncologist, I have to wait for my husband to drive me. Thus, to kill time, I always spend several minutes staring at my plants, carefully checking their growth or blossom. Slowly, my plants and I are somehow connected, and I have a strange feeling that my plants' well-being hints at the outcome of the visit to my oncologist.

Another connection I have with my plants is through FengShui (风水), a Chinese philosophy that I can harness the energy around me to make myself and my loved ones healthy and prosperous. FengShui (风水) has been in Chinese culture for several thousand years. Although I have only superficial knowledge about FengShui (风水), I'm convinced there is something to it. I followed the rule of FengShui (风水) loosely, like the types of plants I should have, the locations of plants, the color of the candles, the furniture and their places or orientations in the bedroom, and hopefully, I can harness the energy of the physical space surrounding me.

Afterthought

I just had my 7-year cancerversary in June, and I'm grateful for the cancer research advances and my medical team. Also, I indebt my husband and my loved ones to go through the past seven years' journey with me. I don't know if it's superstitious, but I do feel that my plants' well-being and my cancer are connected. In a way, I can’t cure my cancer, but I can take good care of my plants. Maybe it works inversely!

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