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Hello everyone, I am not the one with lung cancer, my dad is. We just found out 3 days ago, and although we have so much left to find out I find myself an emotional mess every time I start looking things up on the internet because it just kind of seems like survival is very unlikely. So I thought maybe reaching out to a community of others who have or are currently going through this would maybe be the positivity we could desperately use. I'll give you a little back story on my dad.. he has been through a lot in the last 10 or so years, our first big health scare happened 10 years ago when he had a massive heart attack, we were told if he would have went to bed that night he would not have woken up, all of his arteries were 100% blocked except one that was 90% blocked.. he survived the bypass surgery and went on living a healthier happier life. 4 years ago he was in a head on collision with a semi truck and I am still not sure how he survived without more injuries or permanent damage than he had, it was truly a miracle. And it took him a few years to recover enough to start to have his life back again. And everything has been going really well until about a month ago. He started having left side chest pains, and it went into his back and up his neck, he was also having chest pain with exertion. We all were worried it was his heart and his doctor thought the same thing, so he was scheduled for an angiogram this week to find out what could be going on with his heart. We were all preparing for bad news thinking he may need a stent or another open heart surgery. Tuesday 2 days before his appointment he woke up with shortness of breath, he said he felt like he was suffocating, and by night he hadn't felt any sort of relief no matter what he tried so we had him check his oxygen saturation and it was 82% so he went to the emergency room, and they thought it was maybe his heart as well and did an EKG, blood work up, and a chest xray. The chest xray came back and they said he had pneumonia, but there was also a mass in his left lung, so they ordered a ct scan, after those results came in they took him by ambulance to a larger hospital in a different city, we live in a pretty small town that isn't equipped to handle any sort of major issue. When he got to the other hospital they did an ebus procedure, and that's when we found out it was a malignant mass, we don't know what kind of cancer or if this is the primary tumor we just know that it is malignant and as if that wasn't enough we also learned that he had a pleural effusion and they needed to do a thorocenticas they said it would help with his shortness of breath and that they had to find out if the fluid is malignant, we are told if that fluid is malignant then he is automatically stage 4, and the prognosis will be very poor, right now he is stage 2b because the cancer was in the nearby lymph nodes but it hasn't spread to the other side, his mass is 4.8 cm and the doctor keeps saying because it is centrally located it is inoperable. I can't imagine life with out my dad, it is a terrifying reality that we could be facing. The waiting, wondering, and not fully knowing details has to be one of the hardest things to deal with.
Red, in white shirt and loose thin-black tie and sweating in Maine’s summer heat, is leaning on a rock-wall fence. He’s just opened Andy’s letter found under the black obsidian rock. In the background we hear Andy reading his evocative description of hope: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.” The movie Shawshank Redemption is a powerful story about hope and life with a message that should resonate with every lung cancer survivor. I watched the movie the other day and made the connection. Andy was imprisoned for two life sentences with no possibility of parole. He was wrongly convicted of murder and throughout the story of his day-to-day life in prison, everyone tells him “hope is a dangerous thing.” On escaping, Andy proclaims that hope is “maybe the best of things.” The movie story line is exactly parallel to the plight of the late-stage diagnosed lung cancer patient ⎯- an unforgiving disease with hope as the most effective means of avoiding consequences. For lung cancer, hope is not a medical remedy. While new lung cancer treatments are emerging more frequently now, basic research funding to diagnose and treat lung cancer lags other cancers. Perhaps the pace may pick up, one hopes. Perhaps a treatment may emerge just in time to save a life, one hopes. Perhaps a miracle remission occurs, one hopes. Hope may not be a medical remedy but, for many of us, it is our only effective medicament. And, in my case, hope is “maybe the best of things.” Recall the story line of Shawshank. Andy’s future is confinement in a mind numbing institution, but he makes a choice to live in a different reality and works diligently, every day, on a novel escape plan. He makes a conscious decision to live. He embraces the hope of escape against all odds. Andy’s poignant characterization about life reveals his reasoning: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.” Exactly! Sometimes in the heat of lung cancer treatment, we forget its purpose ⎯- extended life. No one knows how long but life for most is extended. So what do we do with the extension? Re-read Andy’s characterization. We long for a period of life extending into satisfying old age. But most without lung cancer do not dwell on the amount remaining on account. Lung cancer patients take careful measure of the balance. But, measure for what end? I believe, if one chooses treatment, then one chooses life. Rather than dwell on the remaining balance, focus on doing something you enjoy everyday. I suggest a survivor forget the past, declare the future irrelevant, and live in the day. “Get busy living or get busy dying.” Stay the course.
And, what of hope? What is the essence of it? Words inspire me. They lift my spirit and excite my soul. Especially two simple words: faith and hope. These words have a natural order. Indeed one must have faith before hope is possible. So the question becomes, what is faith? Faith is belief, conviction, an unshakable confidence, that something unseen, untouchable, or unknowable exists. I have faith my chemotherapy treatments will arrest my cancer. I cannot see them working, nor can I touch the chemicals. I cannot know they are working but my belief is strong, resolute and unshakable. I have faith. And because I have faith, hope is possible. What is the essence of hope? Hope is an expectation of a good outcome. For those with lung cancer, we hope against hope. We cling to slim odds; we rejoice at possibility despite monumental probability. Indeed, we who suffer lung cancer are hopers. And, "hope is a good thing"; "hope is maybe the best of things." Hope gives us purpose. It stiffens resolve. It creates strength to endure. Hope sustains. Without doubt, hope lifts my spirit and excites my soul. "Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be, For my unconquerable soul." I believe I shall live to enjoy the simple things, the little things, the important things. My faith in life is unshakable. I hope to live each day to find little pieces of joy. When found I shall rejoice. For the magic of life is joy. But the essence of life is faith and hope. Stay the course. *Previously posted as a blog response.