I am a daughter, sister, mother, wife and a fighting cancer survivor. In 2008, I was diagnosed with stage IV non small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer. I was given 3-6 months to live and told to go home and get my affairs in order. That was nearly 7 years ago!
I was a happily married mother of a 9yr. old daughter, a 7yr. old son and a 2 yr. old daughter. I was a healthy, non-smoking 38yr. old female with no risk factors. In fact, I had an Master's degree in operatic vocal performance. A cancer diagnosis was debilitating enough! But of all cancers, I was plagued with LUNG cancer? What started as an annoying dry cough, eventually led me to see my family practitioner. After X-rays and CT scans, results showed a large mass in my left lung. A lung biopsy and a subsequent PET scan later revealed metastatic lung cancer, with a 2%-3% chance of survival. That summer day in 2008 changed my life and the life of my family forever. The panic that cancer strikes is unconscionable. You realize that your life is being taken without your consent. The life you have prepared is about to be stolen. I can remember sitting on the edge of my hospital bed with that grim diagnosis. Images of my husband and my children's faces flashed through my mind like an out of control movie reel coming unwound at an uncontrollable speed. Sweet family memories we'd had and memories that we hadn't had time to create lingered like heavy weights...her wedding, his graduation, her first day of Kindergarten. All memories that were about to disappear... and new memories would now be made without me. The panic of regret sets in. Have I done enough ? Have I loved enough? How will they remember me, if at all?
The gut check you receive is unbearable. You can't breathe, not because you have lung cancer---instead, the hole in your soul just opened wide, suffocating the very life out of you. I can bore you with every medical detail and procedure I've endured, but that is not my purpose. Suffice it to say, it has been nearly seven years of mountaintop elation and devastating valleys. The roller coaster of success and failure still haunts today.
That said, I believe I am still breathing and fighting for three main reasons. First, I must in good faith, acknowledge that were it not for God's infinite grace and unfathomable mercy, I would have perished long ago. He has shown himself to me and my family again and again when "hope" was all there was. "I can do ALL things in Christ Jesus who strengthens me." ( Phil 4:13). I believe prayer is power. The prayers of many have paved our road that I am able to stand on today. Second, I continue to have an outstanding medical team at The Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Their willingness to think outside the box and the relentless drive to obtain the latest technologies to meet and beat cancer have amazed not just myself, but others fighting this disease. Over the course of nearly seven years, I have incurred massive chemotherapy regiments, surgeries and radiation. Their approach to beating cancer is leading the charge with conventional technologies and non conventional methods in the form of nutrition,naturopathic, and mind body medicine. Their value is immeasurable to patients like myself. Thirdly, I have an amazing network of support from family & friends who have stood beside and behind us. They have prayed, driven, fed, cried, rejoiced and loved us through it all. Their efforts can never be repaid. You see, we never stood alone.
Lastly, I am the beneficiary of decades of research that have prolonged my life well beyond prediction. Foundations like H8 Cancer exist for patients like me...the survivor...the n=1. It exists so that my children, and yours, never face the horror of the word CANCER. Cancer is an insidious enemy. It discriminates against no one. It's relentless pursuit of death continues to find new avenues of destruction. And so we must be vigilant in our endeavors to shut it down! Genetic and molecular research are linking drugs that were once used for breast and pancreatic cancer in lung cancer patients like myself. While my cancer has been yielded by drugs and medical advancements, it ferociously seeks to extinguish time. Time is not a luxury I can afford. Yet, I have have been afforded more time than most with the same diagnosis. There are survivors of all types and stages of cancer. In identifying markers, differences and similarities in these warrior survivors, we find a new way to combat this deadly enemy.
Research databases that compile decades of global genetic and molecular information assist in cracking the DNA code. I believe the cure of cancer hides in the DNA code of cancer! H8 Cancer represents research, and usable research creates HOPE! Hope lives because of your support!
I'm not naive to believe that every cancer diagnosis can have great outcomes, but I do believe we're close and we're making great strides in the fight.
As I continue to fight this beast, I choose to love and live intentionally, and with gratitude for every breathe. I'm thankful to a gracious God, my doctors, my family and friends, and to you. I never stand alone.