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.

More

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?

MORE

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.

…MORE

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.

Faith, Battle, Positivity and Other Irritants

I have always been a person of deep faith. I don’t go to church like I should, to say the least, but my faith is very strong. When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I guess the idea that I would likely be meeting my Maker sooner rather than later caused my faith to become even deeper. Whatever the cause, my faith runs deep and it is very important to me. Studies find that many people find that their faith strengthens in the face of a cancer diagnosis.1 But, certainly, not everyone with cancer shares the same belief system.

…MORE

Cancer, Insurance, and You

Did you cringe when you read the title of this article? I did when I wrote it. Dealing with insurance is one of the things I hate most about being sick. I want to share some tips that might make this odious task a little easier.

1. It isn’t as simple as just picking one plan over another one

There are so many things to consider when choosing an insurance plan. We don’t simply see one specialist. Most of us have a medical oncologist, possibly a radiation oncologist, a surgeon, a pulmonologist, radiologists to read our scans, internists, and the list goes on. And, even if they all work in the same hospital or clinic complex, they may not all take the same insurance plans.

…MORE

Survey Shows the Stigma is Alive and Well

In 2008, the Lung Cancer Alliance conducted a survey on people’s perceptions about lung cancer. Ten years later, they conducted the same survey. The foundation wanted to learn how much perceptions about the disease have changed.

Public perception in 2008

In 2008, most respondents believed that lung cancer was (1) caused by external factors, (2) preventable, and (3) that patients were at least partly responsible for their disease. So, what do you think? Do you think the general public has gotten any smarter over the last ten years?

…MORE

Listening in on what a Member of Congress Says about Cancer

Have you heard of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR)? Every September, they present a Cancer Progress Report to Congress. I just spent some time on their Web site, listening to some of the 2018 survivors’ stories. This year, The Honorable Mark DeSaulnier, D-California was among those featured.

Taxpayer dollars funding research

Maybe it is because of my background in accounting, but I was struck by the way Representative DeSaulnier spoke about the “return on investment” that Americans get when taxpayer dollars are spent on National Institutes of Health (NIH) programs.

…MORE

The End of Another Lung Cancer Awareness Month Arrives

Well … here it is again … November 30. It is Cotton’s birthday – she’s 10 today … it was my uncle’s birthday – I’m not sure how old he would be now, in his 90s somewhere – and it is the last day of lung cancer awareness month.

I wasn’t as active this month as I am sometimes with getting posts made to Facebook; life intervenes sometimes. I always hope to bring awareness to anyone who will listen – anyone with lungs is susceptible to lung cancer, it is the most deadly cancer by far, it is the most underfunded cancer by far (if you take into consideration how many tens of thousands it kills each year). Something needs to be done.

Loss of another Good One

Yesterday, one of the biggest advocates out there passed away from lung cancer. Matt Ellefson has been a tireless and fearless leader for nine years. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will continue through the nonprofit he formed, SURVIVEIT. I rest easy that he is in the arms of Jesus. He was a dedicated and devoted Christian.

There’s been a discussion on lungcancer.net about whether the sudden death of a child (albeit a 43-year-old “child”) or a lung cancer diagnosis is worse. I believe losing a child suddenly is worse, but some don’t. Some feel that their diagnosis is absolutely the worst thing that has ever or will ever happen to them.

Not me. Even if my son hadn’t just died, I would not say that lung cancer is the worst thing that ever happened to me. I honestly don’t know what I would say was the worst thing … I am a glass-half-full kind of person and I dwell on the positives of every experience, including a lung cancer diagnosis and including the death of my only child.

Too Many Die

Anyway … this post is about Lung Cancer Awareness Month coming to an end. I always hate to see it go. I like seeing everyone’s posts. Some choose to highlight people who have had lung cancer – either who have passed away from it – 433 a day do, you know – or those of us who are fortunate and still alive, fighting every day … or a few lucky ones who are enjoying remission.

Others post facts. That’s usually what I do. I try to make people aware of the gross underfunding the disease gets. And the fact that anyone, smoker or nonsmoker, can get lung cancer. Young women seem to be the most commonly diagnosed these days. That’s not scientific, just an observation. I guess I could look up stats for it, but they’d be old anyway.

Breast Cancer vs Lung Cancer

Breast cancer attacks more women than lung cancer, but most people recover from breast cancer. It isn’t an easy road to recovery, by any means, but there is light at the end of that long tunnel.

Lung cancer kills WAY more women than breast cancer does. Usually within the first year after diagnosis. No matter how often or how loudly we try to shout this information, it apparently falls on deaf ears.

What’s the Answer?

I just don’t know what the answer is. We try going to Congress and mostly we just leave frustrated. We try telling doctors, friends, family and coworkers … well, our friends, family and maybe our coworkers – people close to us – get the picture, understand on some level. But doctors are still grossly misinformed and therein lies much of our problem.

Too many doctors think smoking causes lung cancer. Everyone knows smokers deserve anything they get. So, there is no need to fund research for the world’s most deadly cancer. It is simply taking out those who deserve it anyway. Wow.

Smoking is a nasty habit, but there are other nasty habits. No one is so maligned by theirs. Maybe it is because cigarettes stink so much. They offend those of us who don’t smoke. So, is the attitude that if someone has the audacity to offend me with their smoke then they deserve to die a somewhat horrific death?

What’s this world come to?

Taking the Bull by the Horns and Advocating for Yourself

I got a post from someone new to the lung cancer world today. I was struck by how much smarter she is than I was when I was first diagnosed.

Trusting my astute PCP

After I was diagnosed by my primary care physician (PCP), I simply did what she told me to do. By the time she delivered the bad news that I had lung cancer, she already had an appointment set up for me with an oncologist for the next day.

…MORE