Even though I didn’t have a definitive answer on July 19, 2016, I saw the look on the ER doc’s face when he came in to give me the results of my CT scan. I remember the sound of his voice, the frankness, the urgency, the fact that he never looked me in the eye and I knew this news wasn’t good. I’ll never forget him imploring me to call for an appointment with the pulmonologist.
‘Do it tomorrow.’
‘Like, when you wake up.’
Somethings we just can’t forget.
Last year on this day, I promised that I’d be writing a two year post diagnosis post. I can’t not tell you how incredible it is to be able to make good on that promise. Notice the use of the double negative above…sorry, I had to, it seems my sometimes ill-advised sense of humor is still intact and double negatives seem to be news worthy of late.
We cancer survivors, yes, I said survivors because we are still here, count our time from diagnosis in weeks, months, years….and sometimes in mere days. Our oncologists and Dr. Google can give us an average prognosis if we ask, I didn’t. But when you belong to online support groups like I do, it’s impossible not to compare outcomes and hear statistics. Just a few years ago it was rare to hear of a stage four lung cancer patient surviving five years after diagnosis, now there are many at 5 years and beyond.
Two years ago when I was diagnosed, this is what was so according to CURE TODAY. I’m glad I didn’t read this then.
‘In 40 percent of NSCLC cases, the cancer is diagnosed in stage 4; in this stage, fewer than half of patients live a year, and only 10 percent survive two years.’
It’s been two years. Two years!
In spite of the fact that I received a stage 4 diagnosis, I was otherwise healthy. My cancer burden was low meaning there wasn’t metastasis to the bones, brain or other organs outside of the chest cavity. However, when I chose to forgo chemo before my genomic testing was complete, I was going against my doctors recommendation. It took 3 months to get these results and quite miraculously, my cancer had not spread or grown in that 3 months. If it had, there’s a possibility that I wouldn’t be in the 10% club today. Now I understand why in October of 2016 when I answered a phone call from my doc while I was in San Diego enjoying the beach and awaiting results, he said:
“You’re in California? You flew? Are you ok?”
My uninformed response:
“Um, yeah…I’ve been walking miles every day, riding bikes, eating great food, talking till all hours of the morning and loving the beach. I feel great…what’s up?”
Let’s be clear, I’m not advocating going against doctors wishes, but in my case, ignorance was bliss and I truly believed that I was ok, I still do. It’s all a divine mystery. A mystery that is evolving and expanding every minute of every day and I find the mystery enthralling.
And so, two years and 28 various rounds of chemo later:
*I’m older and somewhat wiser. The wiser part depends on when chemo brain decides to make it’s presence known. When it does we all just scratch our heads. “There’s a brilliant statement in there….somewhere….hold on….let me find it…. it was right here…”
*I’m more relaxed. Go figure.
*I’m more tolerant and accepting. Remember ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’ Turns out it’s very good advice.
*I’m less vain. One has to adapt when ones fingernails turn yellow, hair…all hair… falls out and bruising makes me look like I’m 90. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take all of the above if I can make it to 90.
*I take more risks.
*I laugh more.
*I cry more.
And then there’s the most important part of the past two years: Gratitude.
*I’m thankful for my family and friends who have stood beside me, encouraging, supporting, laughing, crying and sharing their love.
*I’m thankful for Vignesh and my medical team.
*I’m thankful for Natalie, my acupuncturist and Leanna, my massage therapist.
*I’m thankful that I can be an advocate for lung cancer awareness and a voice for change.
*I’m thankful for my life.
*I’m thankful that YOU are in my life.
*I’m thankful for all of the incredible people I’ve been introduced to, since and because of, my diagnosis.
*I’m thankful for every morning, for every evening and all that lies in between.
*I’m thankful that my scans are stable and my tumor markers are flat.
*I’m thankful that my hair and eyelashes are growing back.
I could go on and on and on…..
I wonder…what will I write about next year for my three year post diagnosis post?