I’m a 62-year old man with Stage IV Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
In May of 2017 I was diagnosed with Stage 1 Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) in my left lung, and I was scheduled for surgery within the next 2-weeks. It was devastating news for me and my partner Bob of 30-years and we had much difficulty accepting the news, not to mention my 26-year old nephew who lived with us and whose own mother had died from lung cancer some 10-years prior. On the scheduled day, I got up at 3 AM and showered with surgical soap as instructed, and by 5 AM I was making my way across the still dark hospital parking lot as the sun began to barely rise above the horizon. Once in the hospital, time seem to accelerate and before I knew it I was waking up in the recovery room while being told that the surgeon had removed an entire lobe of my lung. My healing from the surgery went well and in follow up scans 3-months later I was free from cancer and given a good prognosis. Thank God I had dodge the cancer bullet.
Then in May of 2018 routine scans showed the cancer had returned in the same lung and so I spent the summer on chemo and radiation with luckily very little side effects. By fall my scans showed that the cancer had disappeared and I was now considered in remission. I couldn’t believe my good fortune and that I had now twice dodged the cancer bullet. Everything moved along fine and follow up scans still showed no sign of cancer throughout 2019. We were so relieved and thankful to God for this blessing.
Then in May 2020 my CT scan showed the cancer had returned again in the same lung, but this time had also spread to my right lung, lymph nodes in my chest, and my liver. I was diagnosed Stage IV and told that without treatment I had only 6-9 months to live. I don’t cry easily but I just broke down in the doctor office and couldn’t stop crying. How was I going to tell my partner and my nephew this news? Would I have the courage and strength to be able to do it? Would they have the courage and strength to handle it? I left the doctor office in a daze and when I got to my car I immediately called my brother and broke the news to him and my sister-in-law. They were so stunned that they didn’t say anything for the first 10-minutes of the conversation. Finally my brother spoke and told me he was so sorry to hear this and that he and his wife would do everything they could to support us through it all. I then left and went to my partner’s work and broke the news to him. In disbelief all we could do was hold each other and cry. Neither one of us knew how to process such awfulness. I left there after some time and went home where I sat down and talked to my nephew. Since both of his parents have been deceased for some time I am more like a father to him. He did not take the news well at all. It opened up all the old emotional wounds of his mother having died of lung cancer. The news left him emotionally wrought and he has been unable to adequately deal with it in the months since.
I started chemo and immunotherapy in May and will have to continue the treatments until told otherwise. My last scans showed the cancer hasn’t shrunk nor grown and we are thankful for that. However, side effects from treatment have left me very sick some days and very fatigued other days. Over several months and through palliative care the doctors have managed to get my side effects under control and I am physically doing a lot better. Unfortunately I have days that I deal with a lot of depression and anger because of how cancer has changed my life and the lives of people I love. I have friends that were supportive at first but then have gradually slipped away until I no longer see them. I have family members I am close to that I hardly ever hear from anymore. My family that has stuck around and my own partner treat me like I am going to drop dead any minute as they are constantly buying me things or trying to do too much for me. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate the love and concern but it is as though they have already dug my grave and are prepared to put me in it. But the biggest blow came from my own nephew who broke down one night crying saying over and over “everyone I love dies.” My heart broke in pieces over that. Things were so hard for him that he left October 1st to go live with his brother in another state. I miss him so much as he was here with me every day while my partner works so now I am home alone all day. I truly miss his company and have been so depressed over him leaving.
I hate this cancer and what it does to all of us that have it, and the caretakers and loved ones that have to deal with it. I know cancer isn’t easy for any of those involved and I know some folks have a much harder path than I have had. It breaks my heart especially to see the children that are suffering with this wretched disease. I don’t mean to sound like I am complaining because God has truly blessed me and continues to, but this is the hardest road I have ever been on in my life because of the emotional aspects and believe me my life wasn’t easy from the beginning. I just needed to sit down and type this out because I can’t really share any of these feelings with people I know. I have always been the strong one that people come to and now I am not so strong anymore. May God bless all of you that reads this and know my heart goes out to you and your loved ones for your cancer journey.