There are Worse Things than Cancer
Last updated: March 2020
You must think I have lost my mind when I write that there are worse things than cancer. Most of us really haven't thought so since we or our loved one received that awful diagnosis. And, maybe you'll argue that I'm wrong, that there really aren't worse things than cancer. Maybe it is just a matter of perspective.
Where I'm coming from
On November 2, 2018, I received a call that no parent wants to get. My daughter-in-law was calling to tell me that she was following an ambulance to the nearest hospital. My son had suddenly and unexpectedly quit breathing. No warning. Just, one minute he was fine and communicating and the next minute he was on the ground, lifeless.
My husband and I rushed to the hospital, praying that he had started breathing again; hoping against all hope that he hadn't been without oxygen for too long; praying our lives were not about to come crashing down all around us.
It takes an hour to get from our house to the hospital where he was taken. It was the longest hour of my life as we fought rush-hour traffic from one end of Dallas to the other.
We're waiting in the Family Room
I called for an update from my daughter-in-law while we were making our way to the hospital. She said she hadn't gotten an update yet but that they had been taken to a Family Room to wait for the doctor. I knew that wasn't good news. Family rooms in hospitals do not usually mean you are going to be told everything is going to be okay.
After we arrived, finally made it past security at the gigantic county hospital where our son had been taken, and were taken to the Family Room where my daughter-in-law was waiting, I knew before I asked that I was going to get the worst news a parent can get. My only child, 43-years-old, healthy, was gone.
What's this have to do with lung cancer?
It is my fervent prayer that no one reading this article ever has to hear those words. There is absolutely no way to couch them to make them softer. They're harsh, cold, and unwanted. "We're sorry. We did everything we could. But, we couldn't save him." They aren't words I want to remember, but trust me when I say I will never forget them.
It wasn't long after hearing those words that I began considering my own journey with lung cancer. I have been battling the disease for six years and, during that time, have been a very outspoken advocate for awareness, research, and funding. I can't tell you how many tears I have shed over friends and acquaintances, young and old, who have died as a result of the disease.
I've watched people fight so hard to live. They go on one treatment after another, hoping for another day, another week, another year with their loved ones. And, so have I. There hasn't been a time in the last six years when I wasn't in treatment. I'm fortunate because my tumors are stable, but the knowledge is that any day that status can and someday likely will change.
So, why conclude that there are worse things than lung cancer?
My heart still aches for everyone who is fighting lung cancer, especially when they are young adults who have children still at home. It is heart-wrenching, to say the least.
But, when my son dropped dead without warning, my mindset changed just a bit about how horrible the fight against lung cancer is. Please don't misunderstand. It is a horrid disease and it is stealing way too many fabulous people from us.
However, people who are diagnosed with cancer have a chance to get their lives in order. If there is no will, there is time to get one. If they need to make amends with someone, they still can. If they forgot that morning to say "I love you," they can get it said.
My message here is hoping to help readers realize that life for all of us is very tenuous. None of us is promised tomorrow. We're not even promised the next instant. I learned that in the most horrific way possible when my son was here and fine and then not. Just.like.that.
Use the breath you have to tell those you love how much you care about them. Take care of paperwork that is not fun, but necessary. Keep fighting, but live life like there won't be a tomorrow.
What healthy habits do you use to improve the quality of your life?