Every single day, it is estimated that 433 people die from lung cancer. And, sometimes, it seems like the only people who care about that are the loved ones who have to say goodbye.
A year ago, my medical oncologist walked into the office and informed me that he was pulling me out of the trial that I had been in for four years. I was dumbfounded and devastated. I was set to receive Opdivo Infusion #99 that day and, in my mind, was already celebrating my 100th treatment. Milestones notwithstanding, my cancer was growing and changes had to be made.
It was just a couple of months ago that I attended a seminar at our local Cancer Support Communities clubhouse on essential oils. Now, I have heard about essential oils for years. I’ve used a few – lavender to make my laundry smell good and peppermint to try to keep mice and ants away. But, that was really about the extent of my knowledge. That all changed after I took part in the class. I don’t know what clicked with me, but something did and suddenly I am knee-deep into learning all about essential oils.
Newly diagnosed patients often feel like they are on a raft in the middle of the ocean without a paddle, surrounded by sharks. There are so many questions when hit with an unexpected diagnosis like lung cancer.
Below are a few of my top suggestions for the newly diagnosed and even for those of us who have been on this journey for some time.
Go ahead…eat the sugar (in moderation)
One that you’ll hear most often is that you have to give up sugar when you get cancer. “Sugar feeds cancer,” they say. Well, it is true that all of our cells, including cancer cells, need and use sugar (glucose) for energy. However, just not eating sugar does not deprive your body of the blood sugar it requires to survive.
I recently saw someone ask how important it is to have a connection with their surgeon. It got me to thinking about it. My thoughts were a little different than those of most respondents. I’m interested to hear what you guys think.
It depends on the patient
My response was, basically, “It depends.” I think it depends on your personality and your needs as a patient and I also think it matters how long the relationship is likely to be.
Are you ready for it? October will be here before we know it. You know what that means. Everything will be covered in pink.
A closer look at the statistics
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), breast cancer killed slightly more than 51,000 people, mostly women, in 2015¹. If one of those who died was your mom, sister, daughter or best friend, it hurt a lot to lose them. Fortunately, the American Cancer Society (ACS) reports that the five-year survival rate for women diagnosed with breast cancer is 90%.²
My six-year cancerversary is upon us so I guess it has me thinking about the journey I’ve been on. I might have chemo brain that robs many of my memories, but I surely remember hearing the words, “You have cancer.”
Cancer … But What Kind?
While I already suspected that I was getting a cancer diagnosis because my primary care doctor (PCP) had ordered a PET scan, I didn’t know what kind of cancer. I was hoping against all hope that it was going to be thyroid cancer. After all, it was weight gain that had sent me to see her in the first place. It would make some sense that my thyroid had a malignancy.
While I waited for my diagnosis, I reasoned that we could just go in, take out the offending thyroid, prescribe some pills to replace the missing hormone, and all would be well. Cancer gone. Life restored. Carry on.
I hoped against all hope that I wasn’t going to hear that I had lung cancer. I had no reason to think that would be the case. I had quit smoking years before, I was more active than I’d ever been, I felt great. Really, the only problem I had was the unexplained and seemingly uncontrollable weight gain. Surely, I wasn’t going to be told I had lung cancer.
My husband and I had just pulled up into the parking lot of an Asian barbeque restaurant when my PCP called me to finally tell me the results of the PET scan. My husband and I had been waiting not so patiently to learn the results of the scan I had undergone about a week earlier. So, I was happy … and scared … when my doctor’s name showed up on the caller ID.
The call didn’t last very long. My doctor told me that I had lung cancer. My heart sank like a ton of bricks. I had watched my dad die of lung cancer back in the 1970s. I knew enough to realize this was not a diagnosis anyone wants to hear. There was a (very) tiny sense of relief when she told me it was non-small cell lung cancer. I’d read that small cell was even more difficult to treat than non-small cell.
My husband was sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck, looking at me with questions in his eyes. Whatever my diagnosis was, it would affect many more lives than just mine, especially his. I wrote “lung cancer” on a scrap of paper and showed it to him.
I remember my doctor telling me that she’d set me up with an appointment the following day to see an oncologist. I was so grateful that (1) she had handled finding me a cancer doctor and (2) that I wasn’t going to have to wait except overnight to go see him.
Keeping Up Appearances
After I hung up, my husband and I sat in his truck and discussed the call for a couple of minutes. I shed a few tears. Then, we went inside to eat so that I could get back to work. I was really happy the call had come while I was away from the office. Processing the news away from prying eyes was definitely easier.
I remember sitting at that small table in the crowded restaurant, looking around, and wondering what secrets the other patrons had that no one else knew. Outwardly, no one would suspect that I had just taken a call that shattered my world. It was surreal to be sitting there, eating a meal as if we had not a care in the world.
And, So It Began…
And, so began the journey that has taken me to places I would have never guessed I would go. What an adventure it has been.
What’s your story? Will you share it with us?