Lung Cancer: The silent killer. My story starts out much like many others, I happened on my diagnosis by chance. One day I was scratching my neck and felt a small lump, I thought nothing of it but it would soon make me think twice. Shortly after I felt that "small" lump, it grew to be about the size of a golf ball. I knew then that something was wrong. I have never been one to go to the doctors, so my health status at the time was unknown. I got involved with a primary care provider who tried to treat this lump as a virus, which was ineffective.
After trying a few antibiotics with no success I was referred to an ENT. This was around Thanksgiving, which I was spending with my only daughter. I then went for a chest X-ray, which showed a mass in my lung. I wasn't ready to accept that I might have the "C" word. The ENT told me he was pretty sure that it was a malignant tumor but wanted to send me for more testing. My daughter began coming to my appointments and found the referrals to the oncologists and it was then I had to tell her. We started out going to the initial appointments with the oncologists for chemotherapy and radiation. Scans showed inconsistencies with the cancer and they wanted more information, so I needed to have my left tonsil removed and biopsied as well as my lung.
The month of December was a whirlwind. In January the pieces started to come together, and it was discovered the cancer was all the same and it was coming from my lung, Non-Small Cell Adenocarcinoma, stage 4. All I can remember was thinking to myself, "I can't leave my daughter without a father." I didn't care about the testing, the poking and prodding all I could think about was my child at the moment. My treatment plan was developed between all the doctors and it was to include radiation and chemotherapy weekly for six weeks. I had another round of scans to make sure nothing was wrong, and to everyone's dismay the time between scans led to further growth and I was no longer a candidate for radiation. However, my windpipe was being compressed by the tumor making it difficult to breathe and complete daily tasks, so the doctors agreed to 10 days of palliative radiation. I began treatment the next day and completed my radiation. I was feeling okay going into chemotherapy, when I began getting a rash all over my body. Turns out it was shingles. This led into the worst month of my life. I was weak, having difficulty swallowing and eating anything and I had lost 15 pounds from my already smaller than normal frame. This was concerning to the doctors and my daughter, who then insisted that I come and stay with her.
I stayed with her for about four weeks, and in that time she made sure I ate, took my medications (even when I didn't want to) and got me back to health. It helped that I had my future son-in-law there to help me not feel like a cancer patient all the time. My spirits were very low, and there were points in time when I wanted to give up but I couldn't, not for my family. I have been someone who has gone to work and provided without question and now I am relying on my daughter to do everything for me. There isn't a more helpless feeling.
After that four week stint, I was finally feeling well enough to go home, and it was then that I was in much better spirits. I went to chemotherapy every three weeks with my daughter and we played cards and I looked forward to a nice lunch date. I started talking about having cancer, and how I felt and I became much more open to people knowing what was going on. Once chemo (alimpta/carboplatin/keytruda) was over I was able to just keep doing my immunotherapy (keytruda) which has been wonderful. At the beginning of all of this I was given one to two years with chemo, and I am now over a year into treatment and this year I get to walk my daughter down the aisle and see her marry the man of her dreams. My scans have come back much better than anyone could have anticipated, and at this time they don't see any active cancer. It has been hard for me not to be able to work, and that has brought on a whole host of other issues such as insurance.
No one prepares you for what is going to happen when you get diagnosed with cancer, and your life gets turned completely upside down. I had health insurance throughout treatment and then my employer dropped my insurance plan with an insufficient warning, and with treatments that cost as much as cancer treatments do, this can be life destructive. I am grateful for my family and their help in getting onto the exchange program so I could get insurance and the hospital that I go to for helping me out during the time while I was uninsured. The local hospital I receive my treatments from has the most incredible nursing staff, they have assured me that everything will get taken care of and that it was. I am extremely grateful for the support from my family, my providers, and even people I don't know. I will continue to fight this lifelong battle because giving up is not an option.
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