Next up is a guest post from another INSPIRE friend, Valerie. She shares her observations on how lung cancer can impact our personal relationships. A never smoker, Valerie has redefined the risk factors for lung cancer. Please welcome Valerie:
“I was diagnosed with NSCLC (adenocarcinoma) in Nov. of 2011 at the age of 48. As a good friend put it, I was a “sick healthy person”.
My entire right lung was removed and all adjoining lymph nodes came back clear. There was no other cancer noted in PET scan or brain MRI and I opted not to do adjuvant chemotherapy.
I’ve been married for 27 years (to the same guy!) and have two sons, ages 23 and 26. Our older son is a mechanical engineer and our younger son is in his last year of college studying music technology.
I am active, optimistic and otherwise fairly healthy. I enjoy photography, gardening, and pretty much any outdoor activity, but especially hiking and kayaking. I am an active volunteer in my church and community, primarily serving organizations that help kids. I work for a children’s multispeciality clinic where I am the intake coordinator for speech therapy services.
I guess first and foremost, I’d like to say that doctors are not God, they are human beings. They have feelings and biases just as any other human. Do not allow them to write your story; only you can do that. If a doctor is not accepting of your thinking, desires or wishes, get rid of them and find another one.
Be aware that cancer really messes with your head. One minute you will have thoughts of “I really need to have this checked out by my doctor” and the next minute you’re thinking “I’m fine, this is nothing to worry about.” One minute you will think, “I can and will survive this, I won’t let cancer win.” The next minute you’ll think, “This crap could take my life, and I don’t deserve to die this way.” These are all very normal thoughts.
Relationships will totally change…some friends and family will ignore that you have cancer, tiptoe around, avoid you or say offensive things. Don’t let that get to you; our little human brains are not wired to wrap thoughts around mortality and the possibility of suffering. Other friends and family will absolutely embrace you and be by your side through everything. Take good care of those people, and strive to keep them close to you.
Finally, I can say that each person will have their own individual journey with cancer. Some have journeys that are cut entirely too short. Others have journeys that seem to go on against all odds and no one knows why. It is a journey filled with potholes, beautiful scenery and some sticky thorns, but it is a journey that we take one step at a time.
Anyone with lungs is at risk for lung cancer. There are 6 major risk factors for lung cancer, and I had none of them, so I added a 7th risk factor, which is “Has lungs.” Never assume that someone has lung cancer because they smoked or that someone who smoked deserves lung cancer.