The Power of Connection

If you have recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, connecting with other lung cancer patients and survivors can have a great impact on helping you emotionally deal with your situation. There is power in sharing a common experience. I spoke with a man who was diagnosed three weeks ago with the exact lung cancer as mine and I realized how much I helped him just by sharing what I had gone through.

Finding someone who's been there

A friend of mine emailed me this week to ask if I'd be willing to help his friend. He said "a friend just reached out asking for a favor to connect him to folks in the lung cancer space. He has large cell lung cancer, stage 2/3 but needs a second opinion. Can you help?" Of course I said yes because he knows how much I like to help others who are affected by lung cancer, especially at the time of diagnosis.

But I knew nothing about his friend's situation and wasn't sure specifically how much help I could be to him. That is of course until his friend emailed me to tell me that he has neuroendocrine carcinoma in his lung -- bronchial carcinoid to be exact. I thought wow, that is the exact same type of cancer that I had been treated for many years ago. I couldn't wait to speak with him.

Serendipity brought us together

Because carcinoid lung cancer is rare, it is serendipitous that my friend had connected me to this guy. Not only was I happy to help, but knowing that he had the same type of cancer I had made it even more likely I could really help him. When I called him, I could feel the emotion over the phone that he was so grateful that he had connected with someone who knew precisely what he is going through. We talked for a long time and he asked me question after question about how I felt emotionally when I was diagnosed and how I did I get mentally prepared for treatment. He said many times "yeah, that's what I am feeling!"

Talking with someone who has "walked in his shoes" was very powerful for him. Even being a cancer survivor provided help to him because there is comfort in knowing that you are not alone in the cancer journey. But being a survivor who had the same experience (and at almost the exact same age as him) made it even more emotionally supportive for him.

Drawing strength from a fellow traveler

I encourage people who are diagnosed with lung cancer to be open to connecting with others who have been through the journey before you. There is comfort in sharing the common experience. You will have friends willing to help you, but unless they have had cancer, they may not truly understand what you are going through. Remember that you are not the first one feeling what you are feeling. Speaking with what I call a "fellow traveler", can provide emotional support beyond your circle of friends and family. In the case of my new friend with carcinoid cancer, it turns out that he wasn't so much looking for a second opinion. He wanted to speak with someone who could understand all the emotions that he was going through.

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