Rebecca H

Rebecca H., ID

Lung disease has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From when I was a young girl and my father was sick and eventually died of COPD. Sadly, he was taken from us far too soon. He wasn't there to see my college graduation,  my husband  never had a chance to meet him and he didn't ever meet my children. And as much as I love and miss him still thirty years later, this story isn't about him. This story isn't even about how I have tried to protect my teenage sons from vaping, cigarettes and the awful addiction it can become, although that is also terrifying. 

This story is about one of the best people in the world, my sister-in-law Sue and the miracle that she battled lung cancer and thankfully is winning. You might think that saying she is one of the best people in the world is an exaggeration, but it's not. Although we are sisters by marriage, if I could pick a sister, it would be Sue. Because she married my oldest brother, I have known Sue since I was nine. I admit, at first I was skeptical, because in my nine-year-old-eyes my big brother is also one of the best people in the world, and I wasn't sure if liked the idea they were getting married. But when I reflect on my life's journey, Sue has been at my side at every milestone and for the small moments in between. She is the mother of three amazing children who are all successful adults, she is the proud grandmother of three grandbabies, she is a wife, a daughter, and a sister. She successfully balanced her family and her own career before most people even knew the phrase work/life balance. For many years, she was a nurse doing home visits for at risk children. She literally saved lives and was an advocate for children who didn't have anyone else to advocate for them. Sue went back to school and became a nurse manager and now teaches nursing. She is genuine, kind, funny, and smart.  Sue will cheer for your every success and is also always ready with a helping hand. When I was pregnant and my husband was deployed, it was Sue that I wanted to be with me when it was time to deliver the baby. Sue is the kind of person who makes the good times even better and the hard times easier. 

Sue developed pneumonia in 2020, and thank God she did! Seems a little odd to put it in those words but when she had pneumonia, they did a scan of her lungs and noticed a small dot. She went back six months later for a follow-up scan and was diagnosed with lung cancer. If not for the pneumonia, Sue's lung cancer would have gone undetected. Sue is nonsmoker, had no symptoms and her cancer probably would have gone undetected. Because her cancer was detected early, it was treatable. She had surgery to have the cancer removed and also about half of her lung. There were follow-up visits every few months to be sure they got all the cancer and there are no new growths. Sue is still recovering. It's incredibly difficult to lose part of your lung. It makes it harder to do things you did easily before. But Sue is also strong and resilient - determined.

I used to think that lung cancer only happened to smokers but the occurrence of lung cancer in nonsmoking women is growing at an alarming rate. I personally know three women, including Sue, who never smoked, who all live in different parts of the country, and who all developed lung cancer. All three loved by their families, all in the prime of their lives. Sue and Stephanie, one of my husband's coworkers, were lucky and had scans for reasons completely unrelated to lung cancer. Sarah, a former colleague, had lung cancer that went undetected and she died at the early age of 46. It happens far too often. Early detection is the key to survival. More research is needed.   

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