I remember the warm summer day sitting on my patio when my sister commented “Your life is pretty posh”. I laughed and thought to myself, she is right! I am a 43-year old research scientist in a happy marriage of 21 years and two lovely daughters, 18 and 13. I, Phuong Huynh, am a very lucky lady indeed!
Fast forward to September 15, 2017. On that day, my world turned upside down and inside out. I was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. My husband held me and we cried. LUNG CANCER!!!??? How could this be?? I have never smoked even a single cigarette. I live a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet and regular exercise. I was furious! At the time, I was ignorant to the fact that lung cancer did not care if you were a smoker or not, if you were healthy or not. I soon discovered that the only criteria for having lung cancer is to have lungs.
My first line of treatment was target therapy in combination with stereotactic radiation for brain metastasis. I had to learn how to accept and live with the disease. It took time, but I chose to smile, to ease the pain for myself and my loved ones. There were also five things that my radiation oncologists advised me to do that have stuck with me to this day. Reduce stress, meditate, exercise, eat healthy and have faith. I slowly eased into a new normal. I established a new regular exercise routine, changed my diet to be mostly plant-based and discovered my new faith. On especially hard days, I remind myself of this quote by Maya Angelou. “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude”.
Lung cancer is a silent disease; many of us including myself show no symptoms until it is in a late stage. What sent me to the doctor was a sporadic dry cough and onset of shortness of breath when walking up stairs. Thanks to research, my medical team, family and God, I am here today and stable. I don’t ask for a cure but I can ask to live with cancer. We need to make lung cancer a more manageable and treatable disease. I truly believe early detection is the key to survival. Lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer, more than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. As a community, we should strive to advocate for more research funding to provide more options for effective treatments and an emphasis on early detection and screening. With sufficient funding, together we can help save lives.
I pray and thank you GOD for each and every day. I choose to surround myself with positive energy and have faith that I will live a happy and fulfilling life, even with lung cancer.