LUNG FORCE Heroes
I was asked to share my story - a story of hope and determination. Hope because I'm alive and determination which is how I faced my situation.
Let me start by saying there is no right or wrong way to handle being diagnosed with cancer. You have to do what's right for you. My story is about what was right for me. In 2006 I didn't feel well. I was really tired, had shortness of breath, chest pain, back pain, a constant cough and wheezing. I had 6 symptoms of lung cancer. By the time I was diagnosed it had spread to both of my lungs, my neck and I had a tumor the size of a golf ball in my chest. At the time I was only 39, I've never smoked, I've been a lifetime athlete attending college on a basketball and track scholarship and we don't have any family history of cancer.
As the doctors shared the news, they told me that I had only a 2% chance of living and that most with my diagnosis would die within the first year. They were basically telling me I was going to die. I heard the 2% living, not the 98% dying. I could have spent my time planning my death or I could have spent my time planning my life. From the day I was diagnosed, I set my sights on where I wanted to be, not where I was. When the doctors shared the news that day I didn't cry and I did't ask why me? I couldn't go back in time and change anything so why dwell on it and try to determine how I got it. All I could do was control the future and what I was going to do next. I never felt sorry for myself and I didn't want others to feel sorry for me either. The minute they gave me the news, I knew it was time for me to put on my game face and that is exactly what I did! I looked at being diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer as a challenge or a competition that I was going to win.. I was bigger and more important than the cancer. There was no way that I was going to allow cancer to get the best of me or kill me.
In 2006 my only chance of surviving was with chemotherapy because the cancer had spread throughout my body. Every other week for 17 months I showed up for my chemo on Tuesday. They would stick a needle in the top of my left hand and I would sit there for an hour and a half while they pumped medicine into my body that I knew was going to make me feel terrible. But every Wednesday afterward, I would get up and go to work. I never missed one day of work because of the chemo. No way was I going to let the cancer win. A year and a half later I was cancer free!
In 2013 the lung cancer returned. During a routine checkup they found a tumor the size of a walnut in my chest. I faced the second round of chemo exactly how I faced it the first round. With drive and determination. In June of 2013 I had open chest surgery where they opened my chest and breastbone and removed my thymus and my pericardium. After the surgery, they closed up my rib cage with a titanium shoelace which looks like 8 paper clips on the chest x-ray. Now I have a seven inch scar on my chest from the incision. I'm not ashamed of my scar and I don't try to hide it. I look at it as a symbol of courage and strength. It's something that I'm proud of. After six weeks of recovery, I was cancer free again.
One goal I always had was to run a half marathon. I wanted to before I turned 40 but I was in the middle of chemotherapy. At the time I had fought and won against stage IV lung cancer twice so I thought why not go after that goal. Six months after my open chest surgery I began training for my first half marathon. On Saturday, April 26, 2014, I accomplished my goal and I ran my first half marathon in 2 hours and 26 minutes. But little did I know I ran that half marathon while I had lung cancer. A week after my run I went in for my routine check up and found out that I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer for the third time.
They found several small tumors in the lining of my lungs. I went after round three just like I did with round one and two - with drive and determination. I went to the World Series and Fleetwood Mac Concert. I went to Key West, New Orleans, Costa Rica and spent time at the lake. I danced, I laughed, I felt the sunshine on my face and I spent time with family and friends. I did all the things that I love to do. I continued to live my life and I worked cancer into my life. I continued to not allow cancer to control my life, instead I control my life.
After one year and 17 rounds of chemotherapy and based on my results the doctors decided to take me off of the chemo to monitor me. In September 2015 during my follow up visit to MD Anderson in Houston, TX I received fabulous news from the doctors. They informed me that everything is stable, there are no signs of disease and that I am cancer free for the third time!!!! My doctors call me a miracle. In September 2015 I celebrated being a nine year cancer survivor.
There is a high possibility that the cancer will return. But I don't think about that. All I think about is that I'm happy and I'm alive!! I knew from the day I was diagnosed was that God chose me for a reason. I was chosen to provide hope and strength to others that will be diagnosed with this disease. Hope that not everyone dies. Strength not to give up. So here's the score - Christy 3 AND cancer 0. Nine years ago they told me I would die within the year and look at me now!!!!
First published: January 22, 2016
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Hero stories are the point of view of the Hero and not necessarily the American Lung Association. The Lung Association does not endorse any specific provider, facility or treatment.