LUNG FORCE Heroes
I was diagnosed May 5, 2014 after dealing with a lingering hacking, bad cough and no other symptoms. After it was confirmed it was cancer, I saw my oncologist and we started a treatment plan.
My diagnosis was stage 3A adenocarcinoma non-small cell lung cancer. It had spread to my lymph nodes. They thought at first, I had stage 4 since they were seeing something in my liver but the liver biopsy showed nothing. Yeah! Stage 3A!!
I began my plan with 2 rounds of chemo, followed by 6 weeks of radiation. The tumor seemed to shrink, so then I had robotic surgery and my surgeon removed 2 lobes of my right lung. This was the first surgery of my life (at age 61) and it was not too bad. I really never took pain meds as I just felt sore.
Unfortunately, I had complications with fluid buildup and lung collapsing so I returned to the hospital 3 more times to resolve this. I was still coughing too much and in September, it was determined that I had a small opening in my lung that needed to be closed so I had the "old fashioned" surgery November 4, 2014. This was much more painful and I was home recuperating for about 8 weeks.
After surgery, I was immediately put on Tarceva and to date my scans are clear and I am CANCER FREE!! My best friend is a breast cancer survivor in addition to being an EFT Practioner (Emotional Freedom Technique) and she quickly helped me cope with all the fear I was experiencing.
I had several coping strategies
- I didn't read statistics online about lung cancer and survivor rates. I knew they weren't good and I didn't want to set myself up with a limiting belief.
- I visualized my love circles every time I had scans, MRIs, surgery prep, etc. I took all the people in my life and put them in circles on a paper. The circles were labeled family, friends, co-workers, doctors, etc. When I felt scared, I would close my eyes and visualize each person in each circle sending me love and support. It took my mind off the fear and focused me in a positive direction.
- I dressed up for all appointments. I noticed most patients looked like patients and came in very casual. I felt if I dressed nice with a pretty outfit, did my hair and makeup, I would feel better. One time for my radiation appointment, the lady at the counter thought I was a drug rep!! When in the hospital, I wore my own cute PJs and put the heart monitor in my fanny pack. Once a nurse asked me who I was here to see!! I did not want to identify as a patient.
- My friend used EFT (tappings) to really break through the ongoing fear and uncertainty of my diagnosis. This technique involves tapping on the upper body meridian points while reciting out loud what the issue is. It is energy work that really works!
- I visualized my lungs every day as pink, perfect and healthy.
- Every day, I said gratitude affirmations out loud. I thanked God for my amazing life and went down my list - my awesome daughter, my friends, my medical team, my beautiful home, the people who invented Tarceva etc. I still do this every day.
(On my vacation this year, I was hiking and met a person from Dana Farber who KNEW the 3 people who actually did invent Tarceva, so now I say them by name each day!!) After I recovered from my 2nd surgery, I did make some major changes in my life since I felt like I did have a near death experience and I wanted to live every day with the most joy and least stress possible.
I decided to sell my business (it was 30 years old and time anyway!), I broke up with my live in boyfriend of 10 years (we are still best friends!) and took 7 trips this year with one being a 30-day driving trip, alone, from Orlando to Quebec City and back!!
I am excited about my new life, getting more involved with the Lung Association, in addition to volunteering at Safe House (domestic abuse shelter) and Habitat for Humanity (my business was working with homebuilders). I am a volunteer at Imerman Angels and talk to lung cancer patients across the country to offer hope and support. It is so rewarding. I do yoga, have a personal trainer, spin, do 25-mile bike rides and have lived a year of YES. (read the book by Shonda Rhimes).
I did the Lung Climb this year (514 steps, 25 floors) and clocked in at 11:54!
I am so happy to be able to live my amazing life!
First published: November 3, 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.