Words: the worry and the wonder

Approximately eighteen months ago an old friend said the most astounding thing to me. “I believe you’re healing.”

I had no idea what to make of these words and my first impulse was that this friend had truly misunderstood the gravity of my situation. “It’s stage IV, terminal cancer” I reminded him.

But then I started to turn those words around in my head. The idea of healing was so very compelling and yet seemingly beyond the realm of possibility. And to be clear, it was not a spiritual healing I was imagining, but rather corporal—that this diseased body of mine should become whole again.

Once I started thinking about it I couldn’t let it go. I was tired of being terminal. Thinking about dying all the time is a hell of a way to live, and I had already spent far too much of my life doing just that.

Finally, in an ultimate moment of WTF, I decided that I would embrace the idea of healing. That I would take that final leap of faith and simply resolve myself healthy.

I mean, what did I have to lose? Believing I was healed, even if it wasn’t quite true, could only make my life better.

And so it has. Of course, that resolve was tested with my last scan but damned if it didn’t turn out A-ok. I had a little chat with Dr. Shaw and told her that some days I felt as if I was cured. Rather than discouraging me she simply said ‘Good.’

The truth is, nobody really knows. Certainly my lungs aren’t clear, but then again, with all they’ve been through, it could be scar tissue that we are seeing on the scans. In the meantime, I feel fabulous. And, frankly, healed. A feeling I am determined to hang onto for as long as possible.



34 responses to “Words: the worry and the wonder

  1. Yay. I choose to see myself healing as well!

  2. Hi! I can’t remember following you, but probably did early in my diagnosis. And then tonight you’re post came through my inbox. Maybe it was God trying to tell me something. I know for sure it brought me encouragement. Thank you!

  3. Are you Leigh Meings cousin?

    “So be truly glad, there is wonderful joy ahead.”


  4. I really like this planet I think I’ll stay around longer too!

  5. Beautiful! News!

  6. Awesome!!

    Sent from my iPhone


  7. janheintzmanlindsay

    Hi Linnea,

    Andy Lindsay and I have been following your journey through these blogs. We are Ipswich people whose kids are close in age to yours. Our Jack, 30, might be around August’s age?

    You probably hear this a lot from people too intimately familiar with lung cancer, but you speak for us. Your blogs sparkle. Your message is familiar. No muddy tired language.

    And you are so right-on. I just revisited your site and watched your video. I was smiling-crying through it. I share that gratitude and joy your face expresses on being given a second chance.

    Andy was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer August 4, 2014, one year after Jack got married, the very day our daughter Barrie turned 25. What a day.

    We believed he had months to live. His cancer sat throughout his lungs so radiation and surgery were not options. We lucked into Tarceva (at Beverly Hospital no less!!!) where he experienced radical improvement for eight months. There’s hope! Once that and then chemo (not a fun phase) ended, we second-opinioned our way into MGH where we have been ever since.

    Now at MGH with Zosia Piotrowska, (acolyte of Lecia Sequist and colleague of your Alice Shaw), and two sessions into Andy’s new treatment, we are on an infusion clinical trial in combination with oral targeted therapy. We are waiting to see what good things this new treatment will bring. Meanwhile, Andy is reclining on the couch.

    Andy and I did a crazy thing last October. We went to Nepal and hiked up a huge peak that no lung cancer patient had any business attempting. But he did it.

    And now he is on the couch. That pretty much is life with cancer. One minute literally on a peak and the next, on the couch.

    And yet we are grateful.

    I notice I say “we” when referring to Andy’s cancer. It has been a we thing. As only people like you can understand, our *family* has lung cancer. Our friends got lung cancer. Four years into it, however, with Andy *still* alive, most of those friends, still so kind and loving, are a bit tired of our lung cancer. They don’t say it, of course. We try not to tire them out too much about it.

    Getting cancer sounds like a bad thing. Cancer rocked our life unimaginably. The day we found out, the bottom of our lives fell out. Our world changed instantly.

    But, and you know this intimately, it has been the best thing too. It woke us up from our stupor. We don’t assume so much anymore. We try to be less whiny; more grateful. More loving, more aware of those needing love, less resentful and harms-counting.

    I hope I have the right email address here and that this hasn’t been your 7,000th email talking in excruciating detail about their cancer journey. I have been wanting to connect with you. We have friends in common I think- do you know Coco McCabe?

    I’d love to meet for coffee if you drink it. Would you be up for a visit? I’ll understand if you are cancer-talked out.

    much love to you,


    Jan Heintzman-Lindsay RN

    On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 9:38 PM, life and breath: outliving lung cancer wrote:

    > linnea11 posted: “Approximately eighteen months ago an old friend said the > most astounding thing to me. “I believe you’re healing.” I had no idea what > to make of these words and my first impulse was that this friend had truly > misunderstood the gravity of my situation. “” >

    • Jan,

      I follow Linnea’s blog. But your comment really hit home. I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in Feb 2014. I’m lucky to still be on my first line of treatment Tarceva. My husband, Tom and I feel the same way about our family and friends. Though they are still supportive when necessary, most have moved on. As though surviving stage 4 for 4 years means I’m cured, not still terminal. Cancer changes your life forever. And yet, as you so beautifully put it, not always for the bad. A new appreciation for life and our 4 loving children and each other.

      I just wanted to tell you how much your comment helped me as I continue on this journey. I play the hand I’ve been dealt as well as I can and with as much grace and sense of humor as possible, but it’s easier with friends and family.

      Carry on

  8. Jan, as this came through as a comment it is here (but I removed your phone number). It is like a beautiful blog in itself, but please let me know if you intended it to be private. Coco is one of the people from Ipswich who I have stayed in touch with, and I was thrilled when I saw the story about Jack in the NYT (I shared it on Facebook to inspire people). And Zosia is just another goddess 🙂 Andy is in good hands. But the peaks and valleys? That and the fact that others don’t understand the incipient nature of cancer makes it all such an extraordinary challenge. However, (and this may sound perverse to some) I have learned to love a challenge. Love and loathe both; I am certain you know what I mean. And yes, I would also love to get together. I have your number and I will give you a ring.

    xo Linnea

  9. Our journey begins with a single step🌹. Yours like many of us has been challenging. Your gift to all has been the information and heart and soul you have shared with us. For myself it meant I wasn’t alone. There was possibility to endure and yes heal.
    I too have lost close family and friends along the way. I have been grateful to remain. Your right none of us know our outcome only that it’s our path to travel. Once again thanks for the gift you’ve given.

  10. kirk (& jayne) smith

    thanks for posting this Linnea – wonderful to see this attitude. My wife and i have followed your posts since i was diagnosed 4+ years ago with ALK+, Stage 3B. You have informed us and inspired us during that time —  so t’s always great to hear that you are living life! Proud of you and happy for you. Big Hugs and much love from Athens, GA. LOVE! LIVE! : )

    • Thank you! And keep collecting those moments/days forward. And don’t you just love how close live and love are?

      xo Linnea

  11. Haven’t commented on your last couple of posts …. But still love them and keep them coming. Happy for you that you are on the uuuppPP – Your Doctor’s comment “Good” was nice and poignant. She sounds like a compassionate woman. I remember over five years ago after been diagnosed with StageIV Lung cancer (although devastated) announcing to a friend that I was going to heal myself. Over those years (short compared to your trip) I have been treated with chemo (always chemo) and get it under control – Have been told over the years that I was in remission and NED – It comes back (seems like 2 year cycles) and we keep pushing it away again. Endurance, persistence, even cure. ‘The Worry and the Wonder’ — Nice post Linnea x

    • Tom, Alice’s yes was just right. She didn’t give me false hope, nor did she take any away. Keep on healing—whatever it takes (and good for you that you understood this as a possibility immediately).

      xo Linnea

  12. Very nice post to read today. I always think of myself as thriving but healing is definitely another way of looking at it and I like that. So many sides to this journey that we are on, some days better than other, sometimes like there is nothing wrong with me. Spring is almost here and I am looking forward to sunshine and renewed optimism. Thank you for sharing your journey and all you do as an advocate.

  13. I so love your positive attitude. I am going to apply it to my mundane day to day life as well. Thank you Linnea for inspiring me!

  14. This is good! Keep the new perspective going! Not every day is a good day but when it is, EMBRACE!!!

  15. Linnea, Wow! I totally get it and completely it’s a done deal and you are healed – I had a similar epiphany a few months back (though you articulate it much better) and my scans have been stable since, perhaps slightly improved though had previously been progressing on current targeted tx. Not sure if that shift completely connected but works for me too and sure makes continuing to live life that much sweeter, peaceful, abundant, and so on. Take care, Allen

    • Allen, I think you describe the shift beautifully—‘sweeter, peaceful, abundant’. It is wonderful to claim those things for ourselves again. Carry on, and report back!

      xo Linnea

  16. Linnea,

    I have followed your blog for a while now. It so inspires me and gives me continued hope.I’m a 4 year, stage 4 cancer survivor. EGRF still on my first line of treatment, Tarceva

    I think many people consider me cured, since I’m still around and you couldn’t tell I have it by looking at me. I guess that’s good in a way. But although I don’t want my cancer to define me, now and then I think I deserve a break, because it has certainly changed me. A new appreciation for what is important in life. For those who claim to be so busy with work and cleaning, I just want to say “Really, life is short, LIVE It.

    Keep your sparkling inspirational posts coming!!


    • Thank you Jayne—I love that descriptor—sparkling. Made me feel sparkly all day 🙂 And continue to hope—four years on Tarceva is amazing.

      xo Linnea

  17. Your blog was, once again, so timely. I just passed my 12 year cancerversary!!! Am I healed or just “stable” as my doctor says. I have been so very blessed in how my body has responded to the various treatments: Chemo, radiation, Xalkori and now Alecensa. with minimal side effects. After a 2 year prognosis, I learned to live daily and continue to do so with great joy and gratitude. I have been given the blessing of seeing all of my grandchildren grow into adulthood. To be delighting in another Spring is frosting on the cake. Love and thank you for all your inspiration

    • Love you back Roni (yea for 12!). You decide want you to be. Stable is wonderful but also not as warm and cuddly as healed. Just saying 😉

      xo Linnea

  18. Pingback: The Sometimes Optimist – Every Breath I Take

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