I recently saw a question raised by a lung cancer survivor who was experiencing difficulty breathing after radiation treatments. She wanted to know what tips we had that could help her improve her breathing.
I am very fortunate because I have not personally experienced many breathing issues. So, I put Dr. Google to work in order to try to answer her question.
I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer back in October 2012. While I am feeling quite well most of the time now, we went through a period of time when it was far more touch and go. I thought it might be helpful for you to hear from me, as a patient.
In lots of ways, I doubt my husband and I have experienced the same frustrations as many of you have. I have been mostly healthy, despite my dire diagnosis. So, I may not answer many of your questions with this missive, but I hope I address at least a few.
In today’s political climate, it isn’t often that you hear about a bill that enjoys bipartisan support, but the Women and Lung Cancer Research and Preventive Services Act of 2018 does. The bill has been introduced into the House (HR 4897) and the Senate (S2358). Now, it is up to us to try to get our legislators to show their support of the bills by becoming co-sponsors.
Why is this bill important?
I believe it is critical for this bill to pass through Congress. Essentially, it is asking for the following:
Have you heard of Precision Medicine? If you haven’t, you are certainly not alone! But, it is very important for you to know it exists, what it is, and how it can benefit you.
What is precision medicine?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) says this about precision medicine:
“Precision medicine is “an emerging approach for disease treatment and prevention that takes into account individual variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle for each person.”1
We got the dreaded and totally unexpected news that my 48-year-old dad had stage IV lung cancer after he underwent a routine physical exam. He’d been having some pain in his knee, but we (and all of the doctors he saw) attributed it to some sort of strain that he got from driving from Texas to Washington, DC and back again in a relatively short period of time. Otherwise, he had no symptoms of any disease, much less lung cancer.
Do you have FCR…Fear of Cancer Recurrence? FCR has been defined as “fear, worry, or concern relating to the possibility that cancer will come back or progress.”1
Now that we have a definition, we need a study about it, right? Well, luckily, there is just such a thing. This study, being conducted at the University of Illinois in Chicago, examines the lack of knowledge around the prevalence of FCR.
Back in the day, when it was suspected that we had cancer, we were sent for a biopsy. The cells were studied to determine if we had cancer and what kind of cancer we were facing. And, we never had another biopsy.
Rethinking how we approach treatment
But, we need to rethink that in today’s world. Dr. Fred Ashbury, Adjunct Professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto (along with many other credentials), explained in a recent webcast why we should always insist on new biopsies when our tumors begin to grow or spread.1
Like with all of us, my cancer diagnosis threw a real wrench into my life. Suddenly, what was easy and taken-for-granted was no longer easy at all. For instance, working at an 8-5 job became a true challenge.
Feelings of guilt
I was actually fortunate that my employer was fairly generous with the time off they gave me. They never complained about me leaving early when I became so fatigued I had to go home, the multitude of hours I missed to see the doctor, or the days when I was simply too sick from chemo to go to the office. Even though they didn’t complain, I felt terribly guilty.
Have you ever visited a Cancer Support Communities (CSC) clubhouse? Every time I go, I think I will be more active. I went yesterday and once more, I am vowing to go more often.
No one faces cancer alone
You may know CSC as Gilda’s Club, named after the famed comedian, Gilda Radner, who passed away from ovarian cancer in 1989. Regardless of the name your center goes by, its mission is to ensure that “no one faces cancer alone.”
Do you remember when you were first diagnosed or when you received word that your tumors were on the move again? It was a very scary time, without a doubt. But, in my mind, it was also a time when life slowed down. Not in terms of doctor appointments and all manner of tests, but in general. All of a sudden, I started looking at and seeing everything around me.