How I Handled My Diagnosis and Telling My Family

Jennifer recalls and shares the events of her diagnosis in 2014 below.

Thoughts shortly after my diagnosis

Feb 21, 2014. I don't even know what to say or where to begin so I will start from the beginning approximately one month ago. My apologies if this is the way you are hearing my news...but I'm not doing well in contacting everyone.

In mid-January 2014 I started having fevers - every 4-5 hours, everyday. No other symptoms. I felt fine otherwise. I thought, Oh, it's just a virus. After about 2-3 weeks I realized it wasn't going away but I still had no other symptoms. I procrastinated until one day on my way home from work I pulled into the CVS Minute Clinic.

Friday, February 14, 2014. The nurse practitioner saw me and found nothing. Other than my fever everything was normal. No cold, wheezing, red throat, nothing. She simply said go to your doctor ASAP and see what is causing this. I went home that weekend and spent most of the weekend popping Tylenol like candy to keep the fever at bay until Monday morning I decided enough was enough and called. Appointment is set, 2/17/14 at 1:00 p.m.

First Tests

Monday, February 17, 2014. I spent 2 hours in the office with 2 different doctors. Neither could find anything obvious so they ordered an array of bloodwork and a chest x-ray to be done right then.

Wednesday, February 2014. At 3:15 pm, my phone rang and it was the doctor. My SED rate (is a blood test that can reveal inflammatory activity in your body) was very high and my chest x-ray showed a left lung lobe nodule. He said, "go to the hospital tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m., have a CT scan of your chest, then come see me Friday, 2/21 at 1:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 2014. I arrive at St. John's at 8:20 a.m. and the scan took less than 5 minutes. I thanked the technician smiled and walked out. Yes, I was nervous and really couldn't concentrate so I came home and took a short nap.

At noon, "Cocko" and I were preparing to go out to lunch. I was nervous but seriously thought they would come back with a diagnosis of some type of lung inflammation due to my chicken pox pneumonia when I was pregnant with Caitlyn. As we were preparing to leave, my phone rang - the doctor. He wanted to see me right then. "Can you come to my office right now so we can talk?" Heart dropped - I knew.

Cocko and I got in the car and we drove to the office at the hospital - he wasn't there. HUH? So the receptionist tracked him down to the North Ridgeville office and off we went. We walked into the reception area and there was behind the glass, waving us in. Heart drop #2: they never take you right in. He ushered us into an exam room. While I'm bearing all, I will tell you, as we were walking behind him, Cocko pokes me in the back and mouths to me 'HE'S HOT' - and YES he is :)

Shock, diagnosis, and keeping track of information

From this point, I truly don't remember things in sequence and details but from what Cocko and I piece together, here goes: I have not one, but 4 masses in my lungs - each lobe has one. Some are small and one is 46 mm which is approximately 4-1/2 cm. There is scar tissue from my chicken pox pneumonia but these have nothing to do with that.

"We want to admit you to the hospital right now so we can determine what stage and progression and develop a treatment plan. We are 90% sure it is cancer but now we need to know how to proceed." While sobbing, all I could say was NO. I am not going into the hospital today. Cameron's birthday party is Saturday and Caitlyn's sorority benefit for cancer is Saturday night (karma??). He tried to persist but no, there is no way I am going in today. I offered to go Sunday but he said he can't admit on a Sunday. So, we agreed I would go Monday, 2/24/14.

So here I am Friday night, just waiting to go. So much happened yesterday and I can't remember so much of it already that I knew I needed a way to keep track and this journal will do just that. I will go tomorrow to my grandson, Cameron's, 7th birthday party and then to join Caitlyn for her Cancer Benefit - both of which will prove to be challenging. I will spend Saturday with my children who are in town, with my grandson, and soak in the love all around me.

On Monday, I will arrive at the hospital to stay for an undetermined amount of time with my cell phone and computer. Technology is my friend.

But, before this goes any further, there are some things I need to say:

Sharing my journey

I will fight this!!!!! I will keep this journal as a way to share my journey with all of you as well as a way to keep track for myself. At this moment, I do not know the extent of my illness nor what the future holds. So my immediate goal is that "I WILL BE PICKING CAMERON UP" (MY ONLY GRANDCHILD) and holding him in my arms in my own home.

Having been down this road with almost every family member on my mom's side, I always knew how important it was to listen and ask questions. While sitting in the office yesterday, I remember asking the right questions but there are so many things that are "fuzzy and unclear." It was like I asked, and then only heard muffles coming back at me.

My children's humor and personalities will keep me strong. Let me share with you a couple of their comments in the first 24 hours that keeps a smile on my face:

  • Mommie, don't be sad, at least I'm pretty!
  • Mom, when you lose your hair can I paint on your head? Like how pregnant women paint their bellies into basketballs?
  • Mom, put my hat on, let me see what you'll look like with no hair!

Love, humor, strength, and your prayers will get me through. I love you!

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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