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Donna M

In 2008 I had a cold that wouldn't go away. That's not like me; I'm never really sick. I had a doctor appointment for the following Monday, just a check-up, when I got there and told him about my cold he listened to my lungs and immediately sent me for a CT scan.

I waited in his office for the results which came an hour later, a mass was found in my upper left lung, fortunately it was stage 1.

Having a cold that wouldn't go away and an accidental doctor appointment plus, I knew something was wrong, saved me. We need to listen to our bodies.

I was 71 and had quit smoking when I was 49, still there it was. Half of the upper lobe of my lung was removed. It was the most frightening experience I'd ever been through, the big C.

We didn't know if it had spread or not; as it turned out it hadn't. My family were there for me and very worried because I was always active and never complained or let anything get me down. I could still beat most of them at tennis and then this...

It took a year to recover; I had 33 radiation treatments, was given an inhaler which I needed but, I still pushed myself.

Then in 2010 I had my yearly CT and a tumor was found at the bottom of the right lung - they did a wedge resection and removed it. It was stage 1 also. All was well as I soldiered on, as my sons called it.

Then in 2011 on my yearly mammogram they found a spot in the right breast; they were able to remove it. It was stage one too.

None of the cancers were related. So life went on but every time it was time for my yearly exams CT, PET's mammogram whatever I became nervous and anxious. My doctor gave me a prescription for Xanax to take before the tests and to use at times I became fearful.

I refused to let the cancer rule my life but it's always there in the back of your head. In the mean time I developed "A-Fib" which the cardiologist said was probably situational from all the stress on my body.

In 2015 I was rubbing my left shoulder because it was aching and discovered a little lump along the clavicle next to the neck. I made an appointment with a ENT it turned out to be a lymph node, they took a biopsy and you guessed it...cancer. This they called lung cancer stage 3, so all the radiation treatments began again plus chemo. I had never had to have chemo before. I quit chemo after 4 treatments because I didn't like it and what it was doing to my body.

.Doctors and treatments became my new social life but you have to do what you have to do. I kind of make a game out of it. I booked appointments right before lunch time so I could meet friends for lunch, I had my hair done the day before did my nails and pressed my clothes.

I traveled internationally every year during these times, kept my sense of humor and refused to feel sorry for myself but on occasion I couldn't help it.

I'm now 80 and it's harder as we get older but we just have to make certain adjustments. Do not sit down and feel sorry for yourself, do as much as you can do and just be happy you're still here. Consider the options.

I may have only a year or two left but I'm going to live the best I can. Just because I was in my early 70's doesn't mean I was OLD...that's a state of mind,

People might say, "oh but you're old." Does age matter that much? Is it okay to die at 70 but, not at 30 or 50? Yes I know it's harder because of children etc. but you still want to live at 70 or 80.

I refer to it as THE cancer not MY cancer. I don't talk about it much and especially I don't want to burden my family with it all because I don't want them to worry and have it spoil their lives.

I'm okay, I'll handle it, no it's not easy it's bloody scary and at times painful. My doctors are great and so are my friends. I'm thankful for what I have.

First published: November 14, 2016

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