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 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?

How do you deal?

Someone on WhatNext lost her mom. She was having a hard time dealing with her death at the same time as beginning treatments for breast cancer. I wrote some suggestions, based on how I have dealt, so far, with the loss of my son.

I hope some of these suggestions will be helpful to you as you deal with your own grief. I realize that everyone deals in their own ways. If none of these work for you, it’s okay. You’ll make your own way.

It’s About Faith

1. I have a VERY strong faith as did he. I know that he is at complete peace, in the arms of Jesus right now. I know that I will see him again when God decides to take me Home.

2. I know that God does not make mistakes. I might not understand His Plan, but I know His Plan is perfect. That is enough for me. (Who knows what horrible things my son may have been spared by dropping dead as he did? I know for sure that he didn’t suffer. He didn’t have to go through battling cancer. He didn’t have to face losing his dad or me.)

Remembering the Good Times

hiking with dad

3. I remember the good times we had together. I smiled all the way through going through 1000s of pictures. It was so fun to see him as a child, teen, and adult, having a great time, acting silly, hugging his wife and/or children…

4. I write. I wake up in the mornings and just write what is on my heart at that moment. I write for my own gratification. It isn’t always for publication. However, I also write sometimes for others to read, publishing blog posts, either on my own site or on

5. I am a glass-half-full person. My mind is trained to look for the positives in life. Even as we were driving to the hospital, not sure if our son was going to be alive or dead, I told my husband, “There are two good things if he has passed away: (1) he is at perfect peace now and (2) his ex-wife can no longer use him as her whipping boy. I took comfort in those positives then. I still do.

You Gotta Keep Living

6. I have stayed very busy. I felt like my mind was in chaos and so was my house because I had let it go a lot since I started lung cancer treatments. I can’t do a lot about my chaotic mind, but I can clean. Even my cabinets are more orderly now than they have been in many years. (I have plenty more cleaning to do … so I will be kept occupied for a long time.)

7. I don’t think my son would want or expect me to quit living because he died. I imagine he would be encouraging me to continue living, continue fighting. During the first few frantic days after he died, I thought, “I’m quitting treatments. My reason for living is gone. There’s no need to keep fighting. I’m sick of going through treatments anyway after six straight years of it.” But, when the time came for my next appointment, I was there, getting my treatment.

No Matter What … It Can Always Be Worse

8. Someone else always, always, always has it worse or what you’re going through could always be worse. Knowing that somehow makes me feel better about my own circumstances. My son could have lived, but have been in a vegetative state due to lack of oxygen, he could have been diagnosed with some awful disease like ALS, he could have not met his wife and had 4 very, very happy years prior to dying, something could have happened to one of his children …

Well … these are a few of the ways that I have maintained a semblance of sanity. They are listed only as they came to my mind, not in any particular order of importance.

For 43 years, my son was pretty much my whole life. It is strange to realize that since he was our only child, and the only grandchild for my mom … we have no legacy left. That feels really weird … and changes my perspective completely on accumulating things… Things I always assumed would pass on to my son … can’t be given to him after all. (We do not see his children – the ex-wife made sure of that).

Needless to say, his death has turned our worlds upside down. We’re left with so many changes necessitated by his leaving us. But, life goes on for those of us still here on earth. We can wallow in our sorrow or we can honor his life by continuing to live our own. I choose the latter.


There are Worse Things than Cancer

You must think I have lost my mind when I write that there are worse things than cancer. Most of us really haven’t thought so since we or our loved one received that awful diagnosis. And, maybe you’ll argue that I’m wrong, that there really aren’t worse things than cancer. Maybe it is just a matter of perspective.

Where I’m coming from

On November 2, 2018, I received a call that no parent wants to get. My daughter-in-law was calling to tell me that she was following an ambulance to the nearest hospital. My son had suddenly and unexpectedly quit breathing. No warning. Just, one minute he was fine and communicating and the next minute he was on the ground, lifeless.


Ready or Not … the Holidays are Coming

Boy! I don’t know how you feel about it, but for me, 2018 has sped by like a bullet. I cannot believe that we are about to begin the holiday season. In some ways, I love this time of year.

What I love about this time of year…

I like the weather better, for sure. I live in Texas where it is hot a good portion of the year. I look forward to cooler temperatures and always dream of a “white Christmas,” though the likelihood of having one is quite slim.


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.


Finally, You’re Coming Back Home

You died on November 2, 2018. The Medical Examiner didn’t release your body for several days. Then, the crematorium has taken forever with you. But, finally, today, they called and said we could pick up your ashes.

It is so crazy. I feel so much better knowing you are “coming home.” You’ll ultimately be put to rest in the National Cemetery, but I am glad to know where you are for now. (And, I’ll know where you are when you are entombed at the cemetery, too, of course.)

I couldn’t explain where I am with all of this if someone offered me $1 million. What difference does it really make where your ashes are? I know, without a single doubt where YOU are – you’re walking on the streets of gold in Heaven – but it has been so uncomfortable for me not knowing where your ashes are … where what remains of you here on earth is.

The days that go by get harder and harder instead of easier. Maybe by picking up your ashes, I will start to settle back down a bit. Not knowing where you (your remains) have been has really been disturbing me.

So, I guess I will go get cleaned up so that Mom, Kim and I can go get your ashes. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I actually think at this point I am going to be more relieved than sad. I guess that’s the blessing of it taking them so darn long to get you back to us.

Two Weeks and Counting…

You’ve been gone two weeks now. And, it really, really still does not seem real.

But, maybe it is starting to sink in a bit. Yesterday, exactly 2 weeks since the day you left us, I was worthless. I just wanted to sleep all day. I barely moved off of the couch. Last night, I had the most fitful dreams and sleep as I have had since you passed away. Is my mind finally beginning to believe that we will not see you again until we, too, pass away and join you in Heaven?

Words Unsaid?

I’m so glad that you always said, “I love you.” And, that we said it back.

I have tried to think of words that were left unsaid … and because you were such a good and prolific communicator, I don’t think there were any. At least among those of us who love you most.

Should that be “loved” rather than “love”? I started to change it or at least put it like this, “love(d)” … but then I decided love is right. Just because you aren’t physically on this earth with us any longer, it doesn’t mean we don’t still love you, because we surely do. And always will.

I am so glad that you were a good communicator and made us better communicators. If you didn’t know we were proud of you and that we loved you very much, it is because you were not listening. The same thing goes for us. If we aren’t aware of how much you loved and appreciated us, we weren’t paying attention.

Frozen in Time

Like with your grandfather who died at age 49, just a few years older than your 43 years, you are frozen in time. Forevermore, you will age no more. The rest of us will get older and older and you’ll stay young (at least to those of us who think 43 is young).

I’m obviously just musing here with this post. Letting thoughts pour out of my brain and onto paper. They say it is good therapy. Maybe yes. Maybe no. But, for me, probably so. I write to get it out of me.

So, from what have you been spared by dying young? In your prime? What will you miss?

Well, of course, you will miss the time that would have been spent with Kim and with us. You won’t get to throw the ball or play tug with Ellie Mae any longer. You won’t be able to call or hug Mom and Scott or fellowship with your friends.

What You’ll Miss

But, there’s a lot of other stuff you will miss that actually gives my heart peace. Your ex-wife can no longer use you as her whipping boy. What a relief that is. She is (I initially wrote “was.” I changed it to present tense. She still IS evil. She just can’t use it against you) the cruelest person I believe I have ever met. You are now spared from her. And, for that, I am very, very happy.

When Dad and I were driving to the hospital, hoping you would make it, but feeling like you probably wouldn’t, there were two things I said to him. “If he doesn’t make it, he will be forever at peace and for that, I am very grateful.” And the second thing I said was, “Sara can’t torture him another minute.” Pretty sad that that was my second thought when thinking about losing you.

I’m really sad that she’ll probably come out ahead financially because you died. She doesn’t deserve that and neither do your offspring after the way you were treated by them. It frustrates me that someone so evil can benefit from you dying. One day I hope I can find it in my heart to forgive … but, even though I am usually good at forgiving, I don’t have it in me just yet to be at peace with that woman and her actions.

There is no telling what those children of yours are going to do before they reach adulthood. So far, they’ve pulled some very scary stunts, like taking guns out to threaten neighbors who they don’t like. With permissive schools and parents who don’t parent … there really is no telling what those children will do. l hope against all hope that they will not someday shoot up a school, but truly, it is my worst fear. They’ve been taught to hate and to manipulate and they’ve learned those lessons all too well.

Thank God, no matter what stunts they pull, you won’t have to see it. For that, I am very grateful.

Speaking of the Offspring

I do hope one day the kids will find peace. I know you and Kim attempted to take them to church where they could learn about Christ, but their mother made sure they scoffed at that.

I think one day, maybe not soon, but one day, those children will come to the realization that, in spite of your faults, you loved them as unconditionally as any person ever could or will. It was so unlike you to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive, no matter how awful they were to you.

Right after you died, I wrote a piece, just to get it off of my chest, about how much your own actions toward your children reminded me of how God loves us. Your love for those kids was absolutely unconditional. Just like God’s love for His children. Sometimes I wished you could turn your back on them. It would have been so much easier emotionally on you.

I’m not as big a person as you. I hope for the best for those children while assuming the worst. If I never see them again, I’m just fine with that. In fact, it is my preference. They’ve been ruined by the person raising them. Sad, but true.

My loyalties were with you, When they treated you terribly, then I was mad at them. Your loyalties were with them. When I got irritated at them for doing you wrong, you got mad at me! Maybe that’s just how it is. We protect our children.

Who You Were

Aaron called you a Gentle Giant and I love that definition of you. You were as soft-hearted a person as there ever was. You loved deeply.

Your faith was strong. I have never personally known anyone who tried harder to live the life God wanted you to live. I saw you struggle so often, trying to understand what it was God wanted you to do. I just bet when you got to Heaven, you heard the words, “Well done, my son, well done.”

At the same time, PTSD and a strong (understatement) desire to be treated with the same respect as you showed others could cause some real anger issues. Unfortunately, the PTSD meant that you could go from 0 to 1000 in a split second. That’s a disease I would wish on no one. I have often said I would much rather have my stage IV lung cancer than PTSD.

You struggled with it so long and hard. You tried everything to control it and you mostly did. For that, you are to be commended.


You know, I have never asked God why He chose me to have lung cancer. I have asked Why He has let me live long past the norm with it. But, not why He chose me to have the disease.

By the same token, I have not and do not expect I will ever ask Him Why he took you away from us. My faith is strong enough to believe that He knows Why, His Plans are always perfect. As noted above, I already think I know some reasons “why” …

There is one thing that I have questioned God about many times, though. I have no answer and I don’t think I will ever understand until I die and can ask Him face to face. Hopefully, you now do know the answer. Why oh why did he allow Rodney to abuse you when you were a child? Why oh why did you not tell us right away?

We were trying to do the right thing and you ended up hurt so deeply that the pain never left, the anger never dissipated. If I am sorry about anything at all in my life, it is that we gave shelter and refuge to a child molester … even though we had no idea at all that he was or that he would ever, in a million years, hurt you.


So, you’re now at Peace. Perfect Peace. We’re not so much … those of us who love you and who are left behind. But, I console myself with your peace. As your mom, that’s so very important to me. Knowing that you are at peace gives me peace. And, I think that’s why I haven’t yet been inconsolable about your leaving us for Heaven two weeks ago. (That and I’m not sure I have yet accepted that you are truly and irrevocably gone.)

I love you. I always have. I always will.




November Begins My Month of Thankfulness

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.


Cooler Temperatures, Colorful Trees, and Plenty of Gratitude

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.


5 Things You Can Do Even if You Have No Energy

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.