Finding Happiness When It Seems Far Away

Have you ever noticed how things sometimes just fall into place? Recently, I listened to a Webinar sponsored by Texas Oncology Foundation about dying. The session’s name is “From Touchy to Touching – Straight Talk about the Dying Process.” It was not easy to listen to, partly because one of my good friends from the lung cancer community was in the hospital, living her last days on earth.

Mourning the loss of my dear friend

Yesterday, my friend, Karen, passed away. She was surrounded by her family and I understand that she easily drifted out of this world into the world of Paradise. I am heart-broken that she is no longer lighting up this world with her intelligence, humor, compassion, and spunk, but I rejoice in the fact that (1) she was a devout Christian (and in my belief system, that is huge), and (2) she is no longer struggling with her disease or a cough that nearly incapacitated her for the last 6 or 8 months.

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Searching for Joy

I started writing an article on joy. It is important for our health and well-being. I believe that and science supports it.

But, darn, sometimes it is really hard to reach down and find joy.

I am, by nature, a joyful person. So far, nothing this world has thrown at me has managed to permanently steal joy from me. Yet. But I must tell you … sometimes it seems rather touch and go as to whether I might finally give it up for good, you know?

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It Takes a Little Rain to See the Rainbow

Do you see it posted on Facebook – “God is Good!” – presumably shouted loudly and with happy exuberance? I do. It is always, always, always shouted after someone got good news: their scan shows their tumors are stable, they have achieved no evidence of disease (NED) status, they have a new, beautiful grandchild, they had a great agility run with their dog…

I never see it shouted that God is Good when tragedy strikes. When bad news is revealed by the scan, when cancer is discovered or has spread, when someone dies, no one posts about how good God is.

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I will trust … I will trust in You

Someone posted this song in response to an article I wrote that was posted on LungCancer.net: https://lungcancer.net/living/faith-positivity/

I love the poem and want to share it with all of you … and I want to be able to find it again when I need to read it.

I Will Trust in You

Letting go of every single dream
I lay each one down at Your feet
Every moment of my wandering
Never changes what You see
I try to win this war
I confess, my hands are weary, I need Your rest
Mighty warrior, king of the fight
No matter what I face You’re by my side

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

Truth is, You know what tomorrow brings
There’s not a day ahead You have not seen
So let all things be my life and breath
I want what You want Lord and nothing less

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You

I will trust in You
You are my strength and comfort
You are my steady hand
You are my firm foundation
The rock on which I stand
Your ways are always higher
Your plans are always good
There’s not a place where I’ll go
You’ve not already stood

When You don’t move the mountains
I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters
I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers
As I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You
I will trust in You
I will trust in You
I will trust in You

Songwriters: Lauren Daigle / Paul Marbury / Michael Farren

Battling Survivor’s Guilt

I recently got back from the trip of a lifetime to Israel. I had never traveled internationally before, so this trip was a really big deal to me! We booked the trip, which didn’t take place until mid-January, in early September. That left a lot of time for me to fret over what all I needed to do to prepare, what clothes I needed to take, what precautions I needed to make. I am not usually a worrier, but I must have read the information that the travel agency sent us a hundred times to be sure I was getting everything right.

But, this article is not about my trip to Israel. I’ve written a couple of other pieces about that. No, this has a sadder theme.

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What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

When I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, the only question I had for my oncologist was, “Can I keep playing agility with my dogs?” He was dumbfounded. He had just delivered the news that I had late-stage cancer and was expected to die within four months, even with treatment.

I guess I didn’t want to know about dying. I wanted to know about living.

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Gut Bacteria Could Affect How We Respond to Immunotherapy

Did you know that your gut bacteria might predict whether or not you will respond to immunotherapy? Three different studies have found that responders and non-responders can be predicted based on the composition of their intestinal microbiota.1

What do the studies show?

One of the studies, conducted by Laurence Zitvogel at the Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, Paris, looked specifically at immunotherapy response by those with non-small cell lung cancer and renal cell carcinoma. The study found that patients with more bacteria from the species Akkermansia muciniphila had the best response to anti-PD-1 therapy.

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Hydration and You. It is Important!

Hydration is important for good health and we need to be able to recognize and treat dehydration before it becomes severe. We, as cancer patients, are particularly vulnerable to dehydration, both from the disease and the treatments we receive. It is important for us to pay close attention to whether or not we are staying properly hydrated, even when we don’t feel like drinking water.

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Staying Occupied When Energy Levels are Low

Treatments that we undergo for our lung cancer can really zap our energy. Someone recently posted a question on a forum on which I participate asking what kinds of things people do to occupy their time when they don’t have much energy. It was a popular question and there were lots of great responses. Below are some ideas that you might find useful.

Paint or color

Several people mentioned painting or coloring. Neither activity takes an inordinate amount of energy, but they are calming and enjoyable. One person is teaching herself to paint watching YouTube videos (is there anything you can’t learn on YouTube?). I personally bought some books.

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Let’s Raise the Legal Age to Smoke to 21

I just arrived in Austin, Texas, which is the state capitol of Texas. Shortly, other delegates from all across the state and I will learn how we are going to approach asking our state lawmakers to (1) continue funding a cancer research and prevention program and (2) raise the legal age for buying cigarettes to 21.

Interestingly, far more lawmakers have already signed onto the bill that will pour billions of dollars into cancer research over the next 10 years than have agreed to support raising the legal age for smoking. A couple of years ago when I was here to ask for the same change in the law, my Congressperson argued that she could not tell a person who could legally join the military that they can’t smoke.

Isn’t that weird? They can’t legally rent a hotel room or lease a car at age 18. And, they can’t buy alcohol until they are 21. Is smoking less dangerous to a person’s health than drinking alcohol?

I always kind of wondered what difference it really makes whether a kid can legally buy a package of cigarettes at age 18 or when they turn 21. For the most part, teens that are going to smoke start long before they turn 18. I smoked my first cigarette at age 16. So did most of my friends, if they hadn’t started even earlier.

It didn’t occur to me that many 18-year-olds are still in high school. As a 16 or 17-year-old who wants to smoke and needs cigarettes, it would be easy enough to just ask one of the high school seniors to buy cigarettes. Most kids are going to help out a friend, even if they themselves do not smoke, especially if it means they might make a dollar for doing it.

Once I understood that rationale, it made it much easier to make the ask to raise the legal age to 21. It has been well established that most people who start smoking do so before they are 21 years of age. In fact, 95% of smokers start before they are 21.

Wow. Sit and contemplate that for a moment.

Naturally, we’re never going to keep cigarettes out of the hands of all kids under the age of 18 or 21. But, if it is especially difficult for them to get cigarettes, maybe a few will decide it just isn’t worth the hassle.

(I don’t know about you, but I wonder how anyone, but especially kids, can even afford to smoke these days. When I started smoking, a pack of 20 cigarettes cost $0.35. By the time I quit, they were closer to $3 a pack, I think, especially if you bought them by the single pack. These days, in Texas where they are less expensive than in many states, the average price for one pack of cigarettes is $6.70. I just shake my head at that. I used to smoke at least one and a half packs a day. I sure am glad I quit when I did. I would go broke buying cigarettes in today’s world.)

But I digress. The law we’re proposing isn’t about raising the cost of cigarettes. It is about changing how easy they are to get. I can’t be sure of it, but I think I might have been one of those kids who just didn’t want to go through all the trouble it would take to ask someone else to buy my cigarettes. I think that would have been especially true if I had to find someone who was not even a classmate to do it for me.

If the law prevented anyone under the age of 21 from legally buying cigarettes back when I was a kid, I might never have started smoking. And, that would have been the biggest favor legislators and the adult public could have ever done for me. I might not have realized it when I was a rebellious teen, but I sure understand it now.

If you live in a state where it is still legal to buy cigarettes at the young age of 18, please advocate for them to raise the age to 21. There is no good reason to allow 18-year-old teens to legally purchase cigarettes. If you live in Texas, please write to your legislators and ask them to support Tobacco 21 legislation.