The meanings beyond a coincidence

Well, I finally got that H1N1 vaccination yesterday.  Ten days from now I will be able to breathe easier, although I have to wonder if this virus that my family and I have been fighting might have been the swine flu.  It is now thought that one in six people in the United States have already contracted the H1N1 flu, so obviously a lot of those cases have been relatively mild.

David and Pete brought home a Christmas tree yesterday.  I always counsel that maybe smaller would be better, but yet another nine foot tree has taken up residence in our living room.  Tonight we will put on the holiday tunes and hang the ornaments.

I also acquired a new pen pal.  There is another Linnea Duff in the world; I have seen her name before when googling myself.  She found me via facebook and took the initiative to contact me.  It turns out we have much more in common than our names.  She is actually the second Linnea to reach out to me, and now I have two friends who share my name (which I think is great fun).  It is just one of the many positive attributes of the internet:  the ease with which we can connect with others.

Coincidences and happy accidents are sources of great delight for me.  I view them as evidence that for all the seeming randomness in life, there are certain threads that connect events and people to each other.  I suppose some would attribute this to intelligent design.  I’m not sure if I believe that, but I do take comfort and even sometimes read meaning into coincidental events.  Just another yes in the universe.

I have been reading Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.  I just came across this paragraph:  “At the Kabul Medical Institute, the country’s most prestigious training center for physicians, they stopped to donate medical books that an American CAI donor had asked Mortenson to carry to Kabul.  Kim Trudell, from Marblehead, Massachusetts, had lost her husband, Frederick Rimmile, when, on his way to a medical conference in California on September 11, his flight, United Airlines 175, vaporized in a cloud of jet fuel against the south tower of the World Trade Center.  Trudell asked Mortenson to carry her husband’s medical books to Kabul, believing education was the key to resolving the crisis with militant Islam.”

Frederick Rimmile was my physician, and in my post in regards to my misdiagnosis, he is the doctor whom I’m certain would have made a proper and more timely diagnosis if he had not perished on September 11. In reading these words I felt momentarily stricken, but then so amazed by the gracious and meaningful donation that his wife Kim made.  There must have been a time when she was paralyzed by remorse and anger, but it was obvious she had moved beyond those emotions and was now seeking to be part of a solution to the very problems that lay behind her husband’s horrific and untimely death.  I was, and am, so moved.

Bad things happen.  I am here, as are most of you who are reading this, because our lives have been touched (touched seems too gentle) by cancer.  Just as I would love to rewind those horrible images of the twin towers; to divert those airplanes and the hatred and anger of those who were using them as missiles, I wish we could all return to a life without fear and illness.  What’s that quote, “If wishes were horses, than beggars would ride.”  In the end, I can only hope to be part of the solution, to help bring my own version of awareness to lung cancer.

According to WHO, cancer will be the leading cause of death in the world in 2010, and the vast majority of those cancer deaths will be from lung cancer.  This is one war with an undisputed common enemy, and I would love to see the world join forces to defeat it.

Just as Greg Mortenson and Kim Trudell realized that education was an effective method to combat terrorism, so too is education necessary in the war on lung cancer.  And I think it’s time for that education to move beyond the evils of tobacco.  I mean, we get it, right?  Smoking cigarettes is bad for your health (make that our health, as second hand smoke is a big part of the problem). However, as much as I wish it wasn’t so, Big Tobacco is going to keep selling their deadly product to no shortage of consumers.  People are going to keep getting lung cancer.  And as the number of never-smokers with lung cancer rises, we’ve got to start looking more closely at all the other carcinogens in our environment that may be contributing to this trend.

It is time to make people understand that lung cancer is not just a problem for smokers, it is everyone’s problem.  We need to get the word out about the necessity for more effective screening and for  a greater number of treatments that actually work.  More time, more focus, more money needs to be channeled into lung cancer research and less to smoking cessation because frankly, that’s a no-brainer.

It’s no coincidence that greater progress has been made against the diseases that receive more attention and far better funding, breast cancer for instance.  Let’s all do what we can to bring lung cancer to the forefront.  There are simply too many of us with this disease to remain invisible.

9 responses to “The meanings beyond a coincidence

  1. You are absolutely right..we HAVE to fight this disease..i love you r spirit and the way you stand for the fight against LC. It’ the most cmmon cancer there is and the fact that a lot of non-smokers als get affected should be a sign. Not wanting to say that it is a smokers own fault. everyone deserves money for treatment and LC is far too much ‘ underrated’ !

    Love Caroline

  2. Thanks Caroline, you must have clicked on to read this just after I posted it (a couple of minutes ago). I try so hard to stay upbeat and positive because I just think it’s better, but the truth is that the “stigma” of our disease really pisses me off. By writing about your experiences as a young person with lung cancer, you are helping to dispell that stigma too. So thanks for doing your part. Love, Linnea

  3. Finally we are safer contacting your blog after your H1N1 vaccination.
    I also had a happy coincidence accident, in the bus to Antigua Guatemala passing vulcan Fuego it erupted beside us and soon the smoke was larger that the mountain! In town I was offered to buy american cigarettes in the street. I said No, I have lung cancer… The answer Smoke and enjoy it when you can. Unreal.
    Great to hear about your encounter with 24 year lung cancer survivor. I just read an encouragin study update, very good news comparing with the expected 5 year 15% survival, 85% mortality for NSCLC, including many found in advanced stages. I was Stage T2N1 adenocarcinoma tumor 5.5 cm treated after resection with Vinorelbine plus Cisplatin. This study shows a group average age now 70, just 40% death of lung cancer after 9.3 years, more surviving in my chemotherapy subgroup.

    http://www.oncologystat.com/journals/journal_scans/Randomized_Phase_III_Trial_of_Vinorelbine_Plus_Cisplatin_Compared_With_Observation_in_Completely_Resected_Stage_IB_and_II_Non_Small_Cell_Lung_Cancer_Updated_Survival_Analysis_of_JBR_10.html

  4. Guillermo, I feel safer after that shot as well. Your continuing survival is going to give all those statistics a positive boost for sure. Keep living your adventure! Linnea

  5. Linnea we are living a cutting edge adventure, great news are in today:
    “Scientifics crack entire genetic code of Lung Cancer” tune on the bbc

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8414124.stm

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/6826312/Genetic-breakthrough-hails-new-cancer-research-era.html

  6. the Other Linnea

    I hope you are enjoying your Christmas tree. I am enjoying your blog, and it was special to hear our new friendship mentioned.
    Although I thankfully have not been personally touched by lung cancer, sadly both of my in-laws had cancer. It’s so wonderful to read of your experiences and know that you are doing so well. Love, the other Linnea (just so I won’t confuse your followers). 🙂

    • Linnea–I just found this comment from you (don’t know how I missed it before)–as you can see, we’ve got a whole column of Linneas now! Thank you for checking in and I really do love the fact that I have these “sisters” out there now. I hope your Christmas was good and a Happy New Year to you. Linnea

  7. Linnea,

    Just so we’re clear, the other Linnea with Lung Cancer….I am pleasantly surprised by the number of Linneas….I am thinking of you and your family and sending you warm and positive kharma (prayers, hope, good vibes -or whatever you wish to call it). Today, we celebrated our younger daughter’s 12th birthday…. Courtney Linnea…she was 9 when I was diagnosed. I talked about you and your success at our family’s Christmas dinner. You are always in my thoughts. I enjoy reading you’re blog…as an English Literature minor in college….you have a “gift”….Here’s to a Happy, Healthy New Year!!!

    • Linnea, thank you for your good wishes and the same to you, as well as a happy birthday to your daughter. My son Peter was 7 when I was diagnosed and is 12 as well now. It’s hard on these kids, what we are going through. And yes, lots of Linneas! If we were all at a dinner party we would have to make a toast, “Linneas!” So let’s wish us all a healthy year in 2010. Linnea

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