In 2012 I was visiting my son's family for a very happy event - the birth of their son. I had had a cough for a while and was having severe shoulder pain. I thought I had a joint issue and needed a steroid injection. I went to the ER and was shocked to find out that I had a mass in my left lung. I have never smoked and try to live a healthy life--how could this be?
After having a bronchoscopy and mediastinectomy, the upper lobe of my left lung was removed. I remember being so out of breath and afraid for the future. It turns out I am one of the lucky ones--the cancer was discovered by accident when I had shoulder pain. I have to undergo regular chest X-rays every 6 months, and I am hoping I am out of the woods. However, once you have cancer, you become hyper-aware of the possibility of a recurrence.
I am grateful for every day with my family, and I never take anything or anyone for granted. Sometimes I feel angry that people don't seem to realize what a killer lung cancer is - so much more publicity goes to other types of cancers affecting women.
I also feel that people are blamed for this type of cancer - they just assume that you are a smoker and somehow you are responsible for your own disease. It seems like more and more women are fighting this dreaded disease who have never smoked. Even those who have smoked should not be made to feel responsible for their own cancer. My brother has been smoking since he was 16, and he does not have cancer at the age of 79.
First Published: November 2, 2016
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