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KatieB

Losing our lung cancer friends

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For those on the board or in any of our online groups- inevitably you will lose lung cancer friends. 

How do you cope?   I've been advocating in the lung cancer space for 15 years and I have things that help me- but even I get discouraged- too many good people are stolen by this disease.  I use my grief to continue the work that I do in their honor, but what helps you? 

Share your thoughts here to help those who may be discouraged and grieving losses or who may be feeling some survivors guilt.  

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Most of the losses I've experienced thus far are people I've met online but it certainly doesn't make it any less real.  Most recently, Mike Burke's death just shook me to my core.  At last fall's Breathe Deep Event, I met Allison Doan's son and that was difficult; I had met her at the prior year's event.  Her son sought me out to say hello.  I always cry but then I renew my efforts to bring light to our cause and our research needs, especially in the memory of those who have gone before us.  

 

 

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I haven't been on the forums, or in the world of lung cancer, long enough to lose anyone I've interacted with (that i know of, anyway).  I definitely relate, though, to the notion of "survivor's guilt."  I feel so fortunate that my cancer was caught as early as it was, and it seems like my course has been so much easier than that of most people here.  There's a part of me that wonders why other people have to face such ordeals, while I get to virtually skate.  

Of course, I'm acutely aware, too, of the fact that lung cancer is very unpredictable and that what looks like smooth sailing right now for me could turn ugly at some point in the future.  Is that a way of warding off a jinx brought on by being too blithe about things?  I do realize, intellectually anyway, that there's no "right" or "wrong" way to feel about one's own situation.  We feel what we feel, and sometimes the way I feel changes from one day to another.  

I try not to put in my two cents on things I don't have any experience with, but I try to send a virtual hug or a word of encouragement or comfort to anyone who can use it.  And I also try to reach out to the newly diagnosed, especially those who may be early stage or are waiting to find out--I certainly appreciate how scared and worried they are.  The unknowns are tough.  But I can't pretend to know how someone feels when diagnosed with extensive cancer or whose cancer relentlessly progresses.  I leave input on those situations to the folks on the forum who have been there and have legitimately helpful things to say based on their own experience.    

I do know that, cancer or not, none of us knows how much time we have on this earth.  I worked in a field where tragedies happened every day.  But I also have been fortunate enough to see survivors--including family members left behind--display amazing strength, courage, and even humor in the wake of those tragedies.  I look to those people as role models for how I would like to face whatever comes down the pike.  I appreciate everyone here, and I'm gonna keep on rooting for all of us.

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In addition to online groups, I also belong to a local support group that meets monthly. In the 17 months that I've been a part of that group, 5 members have passed away. It is hard to deal with, absolutely. I find comfort in the company of the group and the facilitators (a lung cancer nurse-navigator and a lung nodule nurse-navigator) as we sort through the feelings that these losses bring. It brings us closer as a group, and I've developed friendships that I treasure. As LexieCat says above, none of us know when our time will come. Cancer is a sharp reminder that yes, indeed, our lives are finite and we should live to the fullest, which means something different to everyone. One member of our group does bring up feelings of guilt whenever we learn of the loss of a member. I know we all feel it to a degree. I think the best I can do to honor the memory of those who have lost the battle is to continue to fight hard, just as they did.

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