Cancer is nothing when you have hope!! This site is all about living … and living well … with late-stage cancer. I hope you will journey along with me through the ups and downs of living with lung cancer.
When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.
Have you seen this meme floating around on social media? It really spoke to me.
It reminded me of my friend Jane. I first met Jane about a year ago when she sent me a long email after reading a blog I had written. Jane has a couple of kids, a loving husband, and a thriving business. And cancer. Her cancer, unfortunately, overshadows everything that is good in her life.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Melody Beattie
Begin your day with gratitude
Sometimes when we are delivered a blow, like learning that we or a loved one has lung cancer, it is hard to find reasons to be grateful. But, I believe that searching for and finding gratitude, even in the face of adversity, is vital.
I recently saw a study that found that lung cancer patients who do not have anxiety or depression live longer than those who do.1 I was surprised to find this information because I have always been told that attitude might make your remaining life happier, but it has no impact on how long you live.
“Study nature. Love nature. Stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” –Frank Lloyd Wright
Since I have been surviving cancer, I have really, really enjoyed visiting the gardens at the Dallas Arboretum. Whether I go with friends or by myself, I am filled with gratitude and peace while I am there. I consider my enjoyment of the gardens as one of the blessings of having cancer, because unfortunately, before being diagnosed with cancer, I never took the time to go.
I am an animal lover. I always have been. When I was a little girl, my mother would let us have cats but not dogs. I remember frequently hugging a stuffed poodle and praying that God would turn it into a real dog.
As soon as I was on my own, I got a dog or two or three! I’ve had at least one my entire adult life. Usually, I have had two or more. They complete me. I suspect many of you know exactly what I mean. …More…
I am sitting here staring at a blank sheet of paper, wondering what I have to say to you that will be worth your time reading it. I am no scientist. With the advent of chemo brain, I don’t even really enjoy reading and researching like I once did. So I have no great wisdom to impart.
What I do have to pass along is hope. Such a little word but one that has the ability to change your life. Hope crowds out anxiety and pushes away fear. It fills you with peace and can motivate you. ….More
I was just looking at my Facebook memories. I love those! I find myself posting things I want to remember to Facebook now so that they will show up in my memories in the future. Am I the only person who does that? More…
A few years ago, I wrote a number of blog posts for Patient Power. I am going to provide links to them on my blog. Happiness is My Normal was originally posted 4/28/2016
Do you like to sing? Well, guess what? Science says it is good for you to sing.
Benefits of Singing
Prevention magazine lists six ways singing is good for you:
Singing eases your stress and improves your quality of life
It can help you bond
This one is BIG!!! Singing improves immunity in cancer patients!!!
Singing may be good for your heart (it is definitely good for your soul!)
Really? Singing helps curb snoring! (Your significant other may like this!!)
Singing may help people with asthma
Wow! Who knew?
Even though I love it, I am a terrible singer. I used to get such a kick out of my little family when we would be in church. All three of us were singing our hearts out. All on a different key. And none on the same key as the masses. I know our pewmates wished we would just mouth the words!
Usually, that’s just what I do if I am in a crowd. I mouth the words. Even when we are singing happy birthday to someone. I am just so embarrassed that I can’t carry a tune. But, get me alone!!! That’s when the stops come out! I love to belt out songs that mean something to me.
Let’s Share Favorites!
So, the purpose of this blog is not only to inform but to share. I have some favorite songs that I want you to have the opportunity to hear. I hope one or more of them will speak to you like they do to me.
One of the most meaningful songs to me is Mandisa’s “Overcomer.” That’s what we cancer survivors are, right? Overcomers? Take a listen! (And, if you aren’t a cancer patient, there is no doubt in my mind that you are not overcoming challenges of your own. This song works for all of us!)
Laura Story’s Blessings speaks volumes to me. We don’t have to look far to see blessings in our lives. And, sometimes, what seems to be the worst thing to ever happen to us isn’t.
‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise
Lots of people might call me crazy (no offense taken if you do), but I see so many blessings in my life as a result of my cancer diagnosis. I know you are thinking, “You must be kidding.” But, I’m not kidding at all. It isn’t that I wouldn’t rather not have cancer. But, since I do, I have to say, it has brought me many friends and experiences I would have never had otherwise. And, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
It is Well with my Soul
Yes! It IS well with my soul! No matter what happens to my earthly body, I know where my salvation lies! It is great comfort to know that when I take my last breath here, my next will be on Streets of Gold in Heaven.
Casting Crown’s Oh My Soul
The night Casting Crown’s singer Mark Hall was diagnosed with cancer, he sat down and wrote “Oh My Soul.” It is a powerful song. Mark describes the motivation behind the song,
I just sat down on the piano and was looking at the verse where David says, ‘Why so downcast, oh my soul. Put your hope in God.’ So the song is me just having a little argument with myself and giving it to Him.”
God has my cancer, too, Does He have yours?
End of the Beginning
Another favorite song of mine has nothing to do with encouragement or cancer or counting blessings, but I just love this David Phelps (he’s one of my favorite artists) song.
There are more songs that speak volumes to me and that I love to belt out, but I will stop here. We’ll do another blog at another time with more songs.
As you can see, the ones that mean the most to me also have a lot to do with my faith. I couldn’t go through this battle without my faith.
What about you? What songs are most meaningful to you? Why? Let me know!
I just finished watching the movie, Gleason. It is the story of Steve Gleason, a former New Orleans Saints professional football player and current ALS survivor. Steve was diagnosed with ALS when he was only 34 years old. ALS, aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, affects the function of nerves and muscles, ultimately rendering those with the disease unable to move or speak, though their minds remain strong.
Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. About 6,000 people are diagnosed with the devastating neurological disease each year. The life expectancy for those with ALS is three to five years, though 20% live at least five years and ten percent will live more than ten years. Live, as many cancer patients also know, is a relative term.
The movie chronicles the journey Steve, his wife Michel, and son Rivers have traveled, mostly since Steve’s diagnosis. It is, without a doubt, inspirational. And frustrating. And maddening. And, incredibly sad. If you watch it, and I encourage you to do so, be sure to have a box of tissue nearby. I can’t imagine that you won’t need them.
Everyone handles adversity in their own way. Steve and Michel resolved to meet the disease headlong, especially after Michel learned she was pregnant with their first child just a short while after learning Steve was entering the battle, quite literally, for his life.
Steve has the money and the fame to do a lot more than a lot of us can do. And, to his credit, he is using both to bring great awareness to the disease that has robbed him of his vitality, but not of his spirit. There is even a law, the Steve Gleason Act, that ensures that Medicare or Medicaid will pay for speech generating devices so that ALS sufferers can continue to communicate even after the disease robs them of their ability to speak.
I am not an expert, to say the least, on the ALS disease. I’ve feared it since I saw a movie many years ago about the battle baseball great Lou Gehrig fought against it. It, like cancer, is not for sissies. That’s for sure. It is a mean, mean, mean disease.
What Inspires Me?
As soon as I finished watching the movie I felt compelled to come fire up the computer and write. I have to write while the ideas are fresh in my mind or they leave me, often forever. Even when I am touched as deeply as I have been by the Gleason film and the life of Steve Gleason, my mind doesn’t always hang onto thoughts for very long. Chemo brain, anyone?
Steve Gleason inspires me. This man has allowed a film crew to follow him through some of the most embarrassing and harrowing times a person could endure. The purpose of the film is to leave a documentary behind for his son, but it also serves to bring great awareness about the disease and the needs of patients and for research. Steve knows that he likely will not live long enough for his son to really remember him in the flesh. The video journals will let Rivers know his daddy, hear his advice, and know his love, even if Steve is no longer physically here.
And, something else the film does is show just how indomitable the human spirit can be. Steve and his wife Michel, who is as heroic and inspirational as her husband, decided when he was diagnosed that he wasn’t going to die before the disease actually robs him of life. What this man has endured to keep living leaves me without words (and we all know I am rarely speechless). And, to the absolute extent possible, he is living.
Steve isn’t simply alive, he is living. He can’t walk. He can’t speak. But, the movie shows him pulling his young son on a sled across a field with his wheelchair. Making important memories. Enjoying life, despite circumstances.
Since I have been diagnosed with lung cancer, I have met many others with a similar diagnosis. The majority of us were diagnosed with late stage cancer. I think most of my friends who have lung cancer never smoked. And, nearly all of the ones I feel closest to have not been stymied by their diagnosis.
Like Steve Gleason, they decided that lung cancer is not going to rob them of life any earlier than absolutely necessary. Most of them aren’t famous nor wealthy, but all are doing what they can to bring awareness to their disease. And, they wake up each day with a passion for life, an appreciation for the fact that another day has been granted to them.
I am so fortunate that I have never felt angry about my diagnosis. I don’t know why. I am not a worrier. I don’t know if that is because of my deep faith and complete assurance that when I leave this earth, I will go somewhere better. I just know that, from the beginning, my husband and I decided that the disease will be something we deal with while we are living life.
None of us knows when we will take our final breath. I could walk outside today and be hit by a car or I could suffer a fatal heart attack. Just because I have lung cancer doesn’t mean that I will die from my disease in the next year or two or ten.
What my cancer has done for me is give me a new appreciation for life because it reminds me in a real way that life is terminal. None of us will leave here alive, right?
So, it is up to me, today and every day, to look at this day as a blessing, a gift. I can’t undo anything from the past. And, I don’t know that I will be here tomorrow. But, I know I am here right now. And, it is my job to appreciate that fact. Smile. Look around myself and enjoy the sunshine, the day, my family, friends, and pets.