I generally begin November by listing, day by day, that for which I am grateful. Some days, the only thing that really strikes me is that I got up that morning or that the sun is shining. Other days, I have a long list of things for which I am thankful.
My reasons to be grateful
Some people think I am crazy when I begin to list the reasons why I am grateful for my current situation. It isn’t that I would not rather have never had cancer. No one is foolish enough to wish cancer on themselves or anyone else.
I always look forward to October. It usually brings cooler, wetter weather to our parched city after a summertime of high temperatures and little rain. I love watching the trees change colors, even though in Texas it isn’t nearly as dramatic as it is in many parts of the country. Halloween isn’t my favorite holiday by a long shot, but I do enjoy watching the children get excited over it. October also means that two of my favorite holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, are just around the corner.
Cancer treatments completely zap our energy. I get nivolumab treatments now and they do not leave me as exhausted as traditional chemo treatments did. But I remember being so tired I could barely lift one foot after another to walk to the refrigerator. Radiation treatments also took away most of my energy. I’m sure most of us have found us in this place.
So, what can you do when you’re physically exhausted, but you don’t want to just stare mindlessly at the television set? Here are five ideas that other cancer patients and I have found to keep us occupied and involved.
For some reason, every time one of my friends knows someone with lung cancer, they turn to me for comfort. I don’t really know why, except that they know I have “been there done that.” I’m very happy to help in any way I can. More often than not, the person with cancer doesn’t want to talk to me, but their loved ones do. I guess I give them some perspective on what it is like to live with lung cancer.
I always look forward to November. I love this month. Temperatures are mainly cooler … and when you live in Texas, that’s a very good thing. We are scorched for way too many months out of the year.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food (we go traditional with turkey, cornbread dressing, green bean bundles, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, a family tradition of banana salad, corn, pies, yum!). I love the whole idea of concentrating on what we’re thankful for – purposefully thinking about what’s good in our lives, even things that don’t always seem so good.
Our family is very patriotic and many of my family members have served in the military. I love to celebrate Veteran’s Day and the USMC birthday and the day my son graduated from USMC boot camp.
And, it is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. It probably drives people crazy, but I post every single day something about lung cancer for those who are my friends on Facebook. This year, I’ll be also posting something to the WhatNext pinboard. Everyone there has been touched by cancer of some kind so maybe it is overkill, but I’ll do it anyway.
Six years ago, November was a month full of firsts for me – first PET scan, first visit with an oncologist, first biopsy. I guess those aren’t firsts most people want to experience. Nevertheless, November of 2012 was full of those things for me. Lots of new memories. They seem like so long ago now.
So, I celebrate November and all I love about it. And, I celebrate that I am here another November to enjoy all that I love. I am among the lucky ones. I don’t know why and I am well aware that one of these days my time will run out, but until then, I thank my God and carry forward.
Before I got lung cancer, I was passionate about grant writing for K12 education and running my dogs in agility. As a lung cancer patient, I am very passionate about the following five things…
Advocating for funding to support research
Anyone who knows me or reads much of what I write knows that I am absolutely consumed with trying to get more money for lung cancer research. Not only do I attempt to fundraise for various lung cancer-related organizations, but I also write to my state and federal legislators on a frequent basis. I always request funding in amounts as significant as the death rate from lung cancer demands.
Once you are diagnosed with cancer, you’ll start hearing all kinds of things. Many of them are simply not true. Let’s take a look at a few of the myths that surround cancer.
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.
I just read a draft of a blog post I wrote awhile back and the old children’s song we used to sing in church came to my mind, “There’s joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart, down in my heart, there’s joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, today!” I don’t know about you, but that little ditty is now going through my mind, over and over again. And, it is making me smile!! And, sing! Out loud! Loud! (My husband is going to wake up and wonder what in the world has happened to his wife!!)
When I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the chances that a late-stage lung cancer patient would live five years was merely 4%. In fact, the American Lung Association, even today, gives the following survival rates:
“The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is 55 percent for cases detected when the disease is still localized (within the lungs). However, only 16 percent of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at an early stage. For distant tumors (spread to other organs) the five-year survival rate is only 4 percent.”1