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Alice P

Coming home from an advanced step class, a telephone call from my PCP informed me that I had a sizable tumor on my skull that was working itself in. I had only slight pain in the area. My biggest symptom was that, when I brushed my hair, it sounded different over the area with the tumor than if felt over the rest of my head. I felt wonderful, except for a "feeling" that something was wrong with me. After the tumor was removed, I received the diagnosis of lung cancer, non small cell ademocarcinoma. I had no symptoms in my lungs. The CT revealed a small tumor and two slightly enlarged lymph nodes. I have never smoked, do not live with smokers, and there is no radon in my home of 25 years. I did not test positive for the known genetic mutations. Where did this come from? It haunts me. The removal was traumatizing. I got through it by my faith. I kept repeating words from Isaiah 41:10 which starts, "Fear not!" I continued to use that passage through chemo therapy and now as radiation on the lymph nodes soon starts. My response to the chemo was excellent, which was a lesson to me. I was hoping to get immunotherapy as a first line of treatment in a clinical trial, but I was randomized into traditional chemo, the one that has not been terribly successful for many years, according to statistics. I was very angry, sure it was what I needed. As it turns out, it was good for me, with the tumor in the lung was no longer evident.

My greatest gifts have been: my faith, my eyesight remaining intact after the brain surgery, the chemo and those who have also survived lung cancer. When I first learned about this cancer, it looked grim, that survival was just not possible. I do not know what is in the cards for me, but just knowing survival IS possible, along with a ton of prayer, keeps me from sinking into depression. I have learned of these survivors in a variety of ways, some of which seem coincidental. But I believe it is deeper than that. Also most helpful have been my support group at Gilda's Club, my family and friends, my church, the Lung Force site, American Lung Association Team Inspire and the phone buddy program through the Lung Cancer Alliance. Imagine what it meant to be able to talk with someone who had the same pathway to the disease and who is now NED, No Evidence of the Disease. The American Cancer Society informed me of many of these resources. My life was turned upside down by this disease. I went from a very active retiree, working several part time jobs in a career I adored, volunteering at church activities, traveling, and spending time with our new granddaughter, to one who runs from one medical appointment to the other and who sleeps a lot. My confidants are now persons with cancer. My work as a singer and director of a fine children's choir in our community was threatened. My creative pursuits and music were pulled away, and I have always needed these. I felt so many things were torn away and this has emotionally impacted me as hard as the cancer. I have always watched for breast cancer. My mother lived 13 years with it and my sister is a 20 year survivor. I was saddened to learn that the support for lung cancer was faint in comparison, although lung cancer is actually the leading cause of cancer related deaths in the US. I was a bit outraged that the only screening for the disease is for people over 65 who have smoked! Where does that leave me, a singer who never felt a thing in deep breaths, never had a cough, never felt ill? It left me with Stage 4 lung cancer, found when it is already traveling around my body. Thank you, Lung Force, for being out there! You give me hope that people will be made more aware about the disease, that there is advocacy for it, and that the hope of survival, so critical, is shared.

First published: November 4, 2016

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