After lung cancer surgery and a diagnosis of invasive, early stage adenocarcenoma (non small cell lung cancer) and a one year follow-up with the Cancer Clinic I was recently released into the care of my respirologist as “stable”. As the days, then months pass, I try to live a normal life - whatever normal is after two primary cancers! Today for no explicable reason, I feel somehow “lost in the wilderness” with regard to my own preventive treatment. Yes, I go for x-rays, PET scans, CT scans, mammograms and each time it is extremely difficult waiting for results with the possibility of either recurrent lung cancer, perhaps another primary cancer or worse, lung cancer metastasization.
How are you feeling?
I was trying to describe how I feel to someone, with no discredit to my “above and beyond” team of thoracic surgeon, respirologist and MD, all of whom are fantastic. The only analogy I can think of is the story about a man called Damocles who lived with a sharp sword hanging over his head, held by a hair, living each day of his life never knowing if the sword would fall at any time and he may lose his life.
This may sound overly dramatic but one of the most difficult parts of living with cancer is stress and uncertainty - not all the time but "black" thoughts come to mind especially before appointments and results. Another reality is the frustration based on the fact that if the cancer returns there is limited treatment as chemotherapy is not very successful with this type of cancer. Unfortunately I am not compatible with the new immunotherapy drugs EGFR (Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor) and ALK inhibitor (Crizotinib) available for lung cancer patients. Ask your medical team about these new drugs as results are really hopeful for those who are living with lung cancer.
It is easy to say with the very best of intentions “be positive, be happy, don't worry, have faith, it will work out" but always remember people who are living with cancer are often coping with insurmountable health and emotional issues.
Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass
It's about learning to dance in the rain
I am overwhelmingly grateful that even though the lung cancer is invasive it was caught early. It is good to be grateful, positive and as happy as you can be. I realize that under slightly differing circumstances I may in fact not be able to sit here and write this article.
Be a Cancer Fighter
A few encouraging notes if you have cancer might I suggest that you :
- Surround yourself with medical professionals who are highly regarded and you trust.
- Talk about your health issues with those who are willing to listen, are supportive and understanding
- Have an advocate and an emotional support network
- Why not take some of the hints from Caramel and Parsley - cut out the chemicals in your life "Time for a Change"
- Consume antioxidant fruits and vegetables every day for vitamins, minerals,
- Exercise as much as you are able (this can be a tough one for many) - try for half an hour a day
- Keep busy, volunteer, take up a new hobby – whatever you are able
- Faith is important. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy. See Desiderata from Life is Full of Surprises
- Basically, look after yourself the best you can - now - and perhaps in the future there will be a cure
There is no Cancer Survivor Manual
No matter how happy and positive a person is from my experience, negative thoughts will pop up to remind us of our status in the journey of Life at the most unexpected times. It's okay. There is no set way to behave – no cancer survivor protocol or manual to follow. In closing, I encourage you to be pro-active in your care, be the best you can be, enjoy the moments, spend time with those you love and keep your reality in perspective and balance.
There are many cancer statistics but we, as individuals, are very unique; for many there is fear of the unknown and disease prognosis, confusion over decisions; but always remember to enjoy the blessings of living every day, for every breath that we take as we walk down this road called Life.
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” - Plato
PostScript: If you do not personally have cancer, but you love someone who does, I hope this helps you to be more empathetic and supportive as you share their journey. Bear in mind all of us react differently in identical situations ... just a few thoughts.
There is unparalleled joy & thankfulness in my six month "clear" lung x-ray report (as of September, 2013)
- Today's great news from the University of Southampton on latest cancer treatment
- Crizotinib testing was done in Seattle, USA and is now approved for use by Canadian Cancer Society
- While researching the web for the latest lung cancer treatments and news there is a new drug, gilotrifib, approved last month by the US FDA for the treatment of advanced lung cancer
- Immunotherapy helps the immune system reject or suppress cancer tumours
- Monoclonal antibody therapy stimulates the immune system to attack cancer and other disease cells
- Here's some cancer survivor tips from the Mayo Clinic
- The chances of getting cancer are unfortunately increasing (Statistics are now 1 in 2 or 3 for adults)
Information contained in Caramel and Parsley does not claim to prevent or cure cancer but to simply explore options to be the best you can be in your circumstances by living a healthy and more simple lifestyle. There are still a lot of unknowns in preventing, fighting and curing cancer. Often there is conflicting information on a variety of preventions and cures but a balanced approach is always recommended.
Links & References
- American Cancer Society Statistics 2012
- Gilotrifib information
- Crizotinib is an ALK inhibitor versus chemotherapy
- Coping information from American Cancer Society
- "But lung cancer is still one of the deadliest cancers. Canadian women with lung cancer have an average five-year survival rate of 18%" from The Lung Association
- Early lung cancer diagnosis - RAP - Surrey Memorial Hospital, Surrey, B.C. Canada
- Having a PETscan and how does it work
- Radiation and Cancer
- Turmeric and Cancer and Vitamin C
- Why not eat a clove of fresh garlic a day
- A great antioxidant - Wild Blackberry
- For whatever you are going through in your Life today – the Starfish story
- The Breast Cancer Survival Manual by John Link, M.D., Henry Holt and Co., 1998
- Just for our two-year old grandson - The Little Engine that Could : Nothing Can Stop us (MCA Universal Home Video)
“1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes”
- Standup2Cancer website