A person sits peacefully on the top of a hill that shows many ups and downs, at sunset

My Secrets to Living with Lung Cancer

I recently read the following question (paraphrased):

“I’ve been having some mental issues that are odd for me. I think it might be depression, but I don’t know. I feel sad, mad, scared I am going to die. I don’t know if this is a normal part of having cancer or if I have full-blown depression. Regardless, how do I pull myself out of this without seeing a therapist?”

I bet some participants here have the same question. This is my response.

We are all unique

Everyone is different. No one faces their diagnosis in the same way.

There are two reasons, I think, that I have never fallen into an abyss of depression since my lung cancer diagnosis nearly seven years ago. It’s okay if you disagree with me. We’re all different and we each get through life the best way we can. This is my way.

My faith lifts me

First and foremost, my faith has sustained me. When I was diagnosed in October 2012 with stage IV lung cancer, I immediately knew that I was in a win-win situation. I love, love, love living life here on earth. When I was diagnosed, I was having the time of my life.

But I have a deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and in the promises made in the Bible. Among those promises is one that says when I die, I immediately end up in Paradise. And, if I think life on earth is good, there is no comparison to what my belief says Paradise will be like.

Thus, the win-win situation. If I live, yay!!! I have much left I want to do here on this earth. But, if I die, while my meager mind cannot begin to comprehend it, Paradise awaits me. The actual process of drawing my last breath is a bit intimidating, but otherwise, dying simply takes me to a far better place than here.

I'm not done living

The second way I've avoided sinking into a deep depression is that I resolved to keep on living until I no longer could. My oncologist had delivered the news that I had four months left to live and asked if I had any questions. My question was this, “Can I keep playing agility with my dogs?” Translated, that means, must I quit living my life because I have been diagnosed with lung cancer?

Honestly, my life is fuller since I was diagnosed than ever before. I have traveled, participated in videos, written these articles, spent quality time with family and friends. I’ve met fabulous people I’d have never met were it not for cancer. Life has been good, despite cancer.

Coping with loss isn't easy

And, here’s a bonus way I’ve managed to stay happy, even joyful, since my diagnosis. The fact is, not one person is going to get out of here alive. An inevitable fact of life is death.

That has been brought to my mind more forcefully than ever over the last 10 months. It was 10 months ago today that my 43-year-old son drew his last breath. He didn’t know he was about to die. We didn’t know he was about to die. No one got to say goodbye. There were no last hugs. One minute he was here. The next, he was gone forever.

Two months later, my best friend from grade school didn’t wake up one morning. She was as happy as she had ever been in her entire life but that didn’t keep her here on earth. None of us knew she was about to draw her last breath, including her. One minute she was here. The next minute, she was gone.

Another friend recently died from lung cancer. She fought her stage IV disease for over six years. She lived a full life during that time -- traveling, speaking, writing, watching the Nats play baseball. When her cancer started taking over her body, she didn’t have long left on earth, but she did have time to make some final arrangements. More than that, we all got to say good-bye, to tell her we loved her, to tell her we were going to miss her. Her family held her hands as she transitioned to Paradise.

Live while you can

So, there’s my secret to living a life with cancer and with joy. First, I believe this life has nothing on what the next will offer. Second, cancer will not determine how much I will live while I still have life. And, thirdly, I accept that we are all going to die one of these days so there’s no reason at all to walk around mad or depressed about it. It is simply an inevitable part of living.

So, live while you can!

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