What’s Your Word?

If you had to choose a single word to define 2017, what would it be?

This question was asked on a forum I frequent. I think your response tells a lot about you, your outlook on life, and where you are in your cancer journey.


When last I looked, the following responses had been posted: Horrid, Perseverance, Joy or Hope, Afraid (or a 4-letter word the censors wouldn’t allow).

I don’t know about you, but for the most part, that list made me really sad.

I have been very fortunate, I know. For the most part, I haven’t been too sick during the time I have been battling cancer.  I have been able to carry on my life, very much the same as I did before cancer.

Sure, I get tired easier. And, I carry around a lot more weight than before. And, I have to give up a lot of time going to treatments or scans or doctor visits. I had no doctors when my cancer was miraculously discovered. Now, I have a huge stable of them. And, this no-doctor-going girl is grateful for every one of them.

During 2017, some bad things happened. I had to get out of the clinical trial I had been in for four years. That saddened and scared me. The tumor in my supraclavicle lymph node started growing, in spite of the immunotherapy treatments I had been getting for over four years. There were personal occurrences besides cancer that could make you sad or scared or frightened or even angry.

But, the cancer in my supraclavicle lymph node is no more!!! Fifteen radiation treatments obliterated that baby! For the first time in over five years, that tumor is gone. That’s a great feeling.

And, that’s not all. A tumor in my lung that had been stable for four years, but wasn’t shrinking, shrank by nearly half. That was good and bad news when I read it on the radiologist’s report of my latest CT scan. It was great news that it is shrinking. But, I was a bit sad because I had convinced myself that tumor might just be a scar. Scars don’t shrink.

I had to get out of the Opdivo trial at my 98th treatment. I had looked forward to the centennial treatment for a long time, ever since it looked like I might actually have a centennial treatment. I never dreamed, at treatment 98, that the likelihood of that 100th treatment was going to be dashed. I was devastated when I learned I was being taken out of the trial at #98.

But, after my radiation treatments, I went back on Opdivo. And, while anti-climatic, I made that 100th treatment!!

And, oh yeah, I crossed that magical 5-year survival mark!! That’s a biggie. Most all of the statistics you see measure life by one-year and five-year survival rates. I helped move the bell curve!!!

According to the American Lung Association, the five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 17.7%. For colon cancer, the 5-year survival rate is 64.4%, breast a whooping and encouraging 89.7%, and for prostate 98.9%.

If you consider only those individuals who have been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer like I have, the five-year survival rate is only four percent. Four percent. Am I lucky, blessed, fortunate … or what???!!!

Sadly, more than half of all people who are diagnosed with lung cancer die within one year of being diagnosed. I lost some good friends to lung cancer in 2017. There are a bunch of reasons for that, but one of the biggest can be summed up in one word: STIGMA. People don’t give to and the government doesn’t fund lung cancer research like they do other cancers.

We will definitely be revisiting this topic in the future!!! It is one that is near and dear to my heart … and to my survival.

But, back to the topic at hand … what is your word for 2017??

And, perhaps more importantly, what is your word for 2018?

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