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Lung Cancer Stories

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Trish Strulson



My Journey Belongs to Me

Based on statistics, lung cancer has a five-year survival rate of 17.4%. For many, it’s a death sentence but for me, this meant nothing since I am not a statistic. I came to the realization that, everyone else’s cancer is not my cancer, because my journey belongs to me, my symptoms were different, and the recovery process seems to be a lifelong event.

My journey began in September of 2013, with the stigma that somehow I brought this on myself, that it was self-inflicted, or maybe I deserved it. I was told no two cancers were alike, and this cancer would belong to me, for as long as I fought. So there was no need to do Internet searches, book readings, or viewing statistics, because this would only make me feel as though, I was given a death sentence. And those who told me that, were absolutely correct. However, I did Internet searches, book readings and viewed statistics, only to discover that over one-half of people diagnosed with lung cancer die within the first year of being diagnosed. I found out, every 2 ½ minutes, someone else is diagnosed, and every 3 minutes; someone dies of lung cancer. I didn’t even know I had cancer at this time, but the grave digging had already begun.

Due to the information I had gathered over the Internet, I found my symptoms, were quite different from others. I had gone to the emergency room due to a stomach ache, which continually worsened over the next week, and I just couldn’t tolerate the pain any longer. The ER physician decided he wanted to do a CT scan of my abdominal region. An hour later, he returned with not many concerns for the pain I was experiencing, but instead with the nodules he found in my left lung. This was the only thing I heard, because I could only see his lips moving, but couldn’t hear his words. The only real memory of that day, was the machines beeping and the orange drink before the scan being nasty. He referred me to be seen by a pulmonary doctor, immediately.

My pulmonary doctor wanted to do a PET scan; the nodules lit up my cancer like the 4th of July. On November 15th, immediately following the results, I was whisked away, thinking the nodules will come out, and all will be right with my world. I woke up unable to move, and my daughter standing over my bed crying; she would be the one to deliver the news; I had lung cancer and they had removed my left lower lobe. My only memory, of my actions following this news, was smiling, and turning my head away, to cry myself back to sleep. I was discharged from the hospital four days later to start my chemo therapy, and my recovery process. My doctors wanted to go after this cancer very aggressively, and prescribe me to endure chemotherapy, using 2 of the harshest medicines available, Cisplatin/Alimta. I was a very lucky woman not to experience a lot of the effects from chemotherapy that others had endured. Everything was injected through a power port, located in my chest; the taste of the medicine was like chewing on a metal can. My doctors believe my good health and attitude prior to the diagnosis, had prepared me for this journey I was going through, and it’s what got me through it.

My recovery process seems to be a lifelong event, and every day, I am faced with what seems to be a new obstacle. Lyrics to a John Lennon song say it best: “One thing you can’t hide is when you’re crippled inside.” Over the course of the last two years, I have tried to stay positive. I have made jokes about myself, and this disease, because this is how I have been able to deal with this tough situation. I have cried, and screamed, going through every emotion possible, and just now; I am starting to recognize, that person who looks back at me in the mirror. My brain operates a little differently; my heart has hardened; my ears don’t hear as well; and at times; I have an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but yes, it appears every piece of my body has been affected by this damn disease. I know I will find my way, and I will survive, but for some reason, at times, I tend to be struggling really hard just to get started. The cancer not only has affected me, but it has also affected those around me. I have family members, whom I barely have a relationship with; due to the fact, I never heard from them through this whole process. Resentment is a really hard pill to swallow, but I just can’t seem to let that one go. My marriage of 22 years came to an end; we were more strangers, than we were partners. Instead of this disease bringing us together, it drove us farther apart. I even lost my job of six years, two days after I got my first clean scan. The lung cancer roller coaster sucks...everyone says to take one day at a time, but really? I don’t want to take one day at a time; that’s not how I live my life.

My journey has taken me to places; I couldn’t even imagine. I will forever bear the scars, and experience some symptoms, but the recovery process will be mine, for a lifetime. As far as I can see, their cancer has been nothing like my cancer. It didn’t cost me my life, my hair, or I didn’t even lose weight. Through the entire journey, I was constantly told, “You don’t even look sick.” One of the greatest side effects I experienced was the ability me to look at my life, take charge, and make changes to it on my terms. It’s all about being in a happy productive place, so I have removed individuals from my life, and added some new ones, doing things I had never done before. I have gone back to school, something I have wanted to do for years, but never believed in me enough, to do it. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I as much as cancer sucks, it made me take a look at my life, take control, and start living again. For that, I will be forever grateful.

I have been though a lot over the course of the past 2 years, but to be where I am and who I am today…..I would do it all again.


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