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Lydia J.

I've learned several things since being diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2016. You must advocate for yourself, the disease is not just for smokers, it's not an automatic death sentence, and it causes you to prioritize your life. I began coughing blood in early 2016. At first I shrugged it off thinking it was a fluke, a one-time occurrence from a bad cold or air that was too dry. But then it happened again, and then again, and then again, each time a little bit more.

I went to the emergency room at my local hospital, but the chest x-ray came back normal, and the doctor told me I had bronchitis. I wasn't convinced, so I pushed to see a pulmonologist, eventually ending up at a teaching hospital. Days and multiple test later, I was diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer. I had never smoked, but I had years earlier been treated with radiation for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. This, my oncologist told me, is likely what caused the lung cancer. After four rounds of platinum-based chemotherapy and surgery to remove the bottom lobe of my right lung and several lymph nodes, the cancer is now in remission.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it returning, but I try to focus on living each day to the fullest and remembering what's truly important – my faith in God and my family.

First published: December 5, 2017

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