Stop Stealing My Friends

After arriving home from LUNGevity's International Lung Cancer Survivorship Conference (ILCSC), I always get down because for once I felt normal again. Surrounded by people going through the same thing I am, it's an unbreakable bond. We are a family, dysfunctional in so many ways. As I lay in bed the other night, reading my Facebook feed (which has become increasingly difficult), I saw caregiver after caregiver proclaiming their loved ones had passed.

The emperor of all maladies

Reading all of these is discouraging, to say the least. I know I must focus on my own health, but the depression can be overwhelming at times, even on anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications. There is a reason the four-part special premiered not too long ago on PBS entitled, "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies". For those who don't know the definition of the word, it's a noun meaning "disease or ailment".

The title alone nailed it. Cancer has always been around, since the beginning of time. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), approximately 1 out of every 3 people will develop cancer in their lifetime.1 It all begins when cells in a part of the body grow out of control. The oldest description of cancer was discovered in Egypt and dates back to around 3000 BC according to the ACS. Back then, the writings said, "there is no treatment". So, in approximately 5,019 years, we are still dying of cancer. It is apart of our bodies, and once it's there, emotionally or physically it never leaves us.

Answers lie in my DNA

Understanding the treatment of cancer really didn't come about until the 20th century. According to the ACS, in 1962 James Watson and Francis Wick were awarded the Nobel Prize for discovering the exact chemical structure of DNA. DNA is the basis of genetic code that gives orders to all cells. Once your DNA is damaged, either through carcinogens or genetics, cancer can develop. There is no current way to repair your DNA. Believe me, I've searched high and low.

If we were able to modify our DNA and repair the damage, we could cure cancer. But, it's 2019 and I feel this may be a way off. So, for now, we live with it. Even if your body is showing no active cancer, it can pop back up at any moment. That in itself hurts us mentally even if we are doing fine physically. Currently, I have no active cancer, but I'm still a stage IV lung cancer patient. I will forever be on some sort of treatment whether it be chemotherapy or targeted therapy.

Coping with the loss

Before cancer, I lived life a lot differently and I think I was a bit vain. Not anymore. Cancer can absolutely destroy your self-esteem about the way you look. Feeling so ugly on the inside can lead to feeling ugly on the outside. And of course, your body changes with treatment. At the beginning of my diagnosis, I thought loosing my life shortly was the worst thing that could come out of this diagnosis. I didn't want to leave my daughter behind. Then my hair began falling out. I loved my hair, regardless of how trivial it may sound.

Losing people I bonded with throughout this journey is now the toughest feat for me. We are trying to live with the largest cancer killer that has the least amount of funding. How is this fair? I know life isn't fair. Believe me, I've learned that lesson so many times. Currently, at this moment, I have a friend clinging to life in hospice and another trying to find some sort of treatment to keep going.

Holding those we love close

That's what we do. We jump from drug to drug, in hopes that one day we can repair that DNA or stop the uncontrolled cell growth for good. I lost my soul sister almost a year ago to this beast. Before and since there have been countless others. We didn't ask for or sign up for this. It's traumatizing and now I may lose my first inspiration who has been living so long with this disease. All I could do was hug her as tight as possible, knowing she could be my next stolen friend.

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