LUNG FORCE Heroes
My mother, Raelene, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in April 2010. Before her diagnosis, experience shortness of breath and persistent bronchitis. She went through many rounds of antibiotics and they weren't working. After being sick for a couple of months and not getting better, she went through different tests and procedures and found out what she actually had...was stage 4 lung cancer.
Her diagnosis hit us all like a ton of bricks. It was unexpected. She wasn't a smoker or tobacco user (except for a few years in college and a bit after.) Where did this come from? After researching lung cancer further, I discovered that lung cancer is the #1 deadliest cancer, and the majority of lung cancer diagnosis sadly happens when its already in its final stage (stage 4.)
In my mother's first appointment, she was told she had approximately six months to live. Six. Months. I have to also mention that my mom was the bravest and one of the best people I have ever known. She switched doctors because her first one had such a lack of empathy and filled her with doubts about her survival. With the help of her new team of doctors, she tried approximately four different chemotherapy treatments between 2010 and 2013. I am going to be candid for a moment. These years were filled with numerous appointments, scans, throwing up, lethargy, depression, losing her hair, major weight loss, having to be put on an oxygen tank, and having to leave her job as a piano professor at a college. I mention this because in order to try and kill the cancer, you're basically killing the rest of yourself also. And you're doing it voluntarily so that you can *hopefully* survive, all while knowing there is no *promise* of survival. That's bravery.
My mom was literally in the fight of her life. Fighting her own self. In 2012, she found a chemotherapy treatment that worked. In fact, the cancer had stopped growing. She was in partial remission. The next 6-7 months were filled with positive reports and tears of joy. Within that time frame, she got to meet her first grandchild, Natalia, and experience the joy of being a grandma -- something she had always wanted. Then without any warning, the chemotherapy stopped working the beginning of 2013. And our world came crashing down yet again. And not only did it stop working, the cancer had spread to her liver. And once the liver is damaged, it is no longer able to protect the rest of the body from the chemotherapy. It was at this point that my mom decided to not pursue any more treatments, and she passed away in April 2013.
I believe that my mom's story doesn't need to be the norm. I believe that lung cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. I believe that further research can provide the means to detecting lung cancer before it gets to its final stages, and therefore, save more lives -- and allow more grandmas to be grandmas.
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