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Chicago Walk & Sandy's Speech


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Hi everyone!

Sorry I didn't post this any sooner - I've been running my butt off all weekend.

The 2nd Annual Lung Cancer Walk was held here yesterday, organized by our very own ReneeK. It was a great success, the weather was perfect and we made lots of money!

LUNGevity was there to speak, as well as people from WALC (Women Against Lung Caner), a doctor and several survivors - one of them ME!

I received requests from some of you to see my speech, so I'm going to post it here for all. Sorry for the length!


I’m thrilled to see you all here. And I’m even more thrilled to BE here!

Two years ago this past Monday, I sat in a strange man’s office and heard the strangest words I’ve ever heard – “it’s cancer”. I don’t think I heard much past “it’s small cell and it’s very aggressive”, but I did leave there with an appointment for a PET scan, to see how far it had spread throughout my body, and the name of another doctor, a doctor who specializes in Hematology and Oncology – the FIRST thing they should hand you is a layman’s medical dictionary ‘cuz this was ALL new to me!

I stepped out of his office and went into emotional meltdown trying to accept that I was going to die at the ripe old age of 41. It only took me a couple of days to decide that I wasn’t going down without a fight!

I searched the Internet for details of how to fight my disease, only to end up more scared.

Statistics like:

“Median survival from diagnosis – 2 to 4 months AND

“5 year survival rate – 5 to 10%

were enough to make me drop to my knees and pray for the first time in years.

Being an avid reader, I rushed to the bookstore hoping for some more promising news. The absolute first thing that got me working with a more positive outlook was a book called “CANCER – 50 Essential Things to Do” (don’t worry, I have a reference sheet for you that will list this book). Although it’s not specifically about Lung Cancer, with chapters like:

Stop Awfulizing

Take Charge

Rethink the Statistics

The Healing Power of Laughter

Live This Moment

all wonderfully written, I was able to put things in a lot better perspective and calm down, a little.

After meeting my oncologist, he declared me “young, strong and otherwise healthy”, he told me there were going to hit me with everything they’ve got. And with that, I entered a world of needles and blood counts and hair loss and hospitals. I remember when they took my blood for the first time and measured my white blood cell count, and my red blood cell count and my platelets and explained to me what all that meant and why it mattered, I asked the nurse, “what’s normal”. She said, “Honey, NORMAL doesn’t apply to you anymore.” I won’t bore you with all the details of my treatments, but I had 5 rounds of Carboplatin and VP16 (I love how they call the combination of drugs a “cocktail”! Like, this is supposed to be a party?) along with 33 days of concurrent radiation.

For those of you out there who are recently diagnosed or currently going thru treatments, I want you to know the following:

#1. Cancer CAN be beaten. Cancer IS being beaten every day!

#2. Give up your fear and anger and WELCOME your treatments. They may save your life.

#3. Use “mental imaging” to visualize the chemo burning up those nasty cancer cells. Anyone remember the video arcade game “Asteroids” with all the things coming down the screen that you had to shoot? Everytime I laid on that radiation table and they zapped me with the machine, I visualized THAT game. The machine was shooting all those critters – and we weren’t letting any get away! The power of positive thinking in medicine is well documented and at the very least it will give you something to focus on and calm your nerves.

#4. As sappy as it sounds, find something beautiful in every day. Seriously. It’s all around us.

#5. YES – your hair DOES grow back!

And now, my life has changed in so many ways!

I have this newfound wealth of medical terms – maybe I should write that layman’s dictionary!

Much to the dismay of some of my friends, I bought a big cruiser motorcycle. I still say I’m not sure if it was a mid-life crisis, or an after-cancer crisis, but I’m having a blast!

I very rarely get angry…..well, I DO have a teenager in the house, so some things get a little heated, but not like they could!

I NOTICE little things more. Like babies, nuances in the change of seasons, how much energy people waste on stupid arguments, and how little patience I have for politics – so this has been a long week!

And I rescued a 2 year old Doberman/Rottweiler mix from the pound. It only took a couple of days with her, with all her enthusiasm, love and pure happiness, before I started questioning who rescued whom! Which leads me to ANOTHER thing to read, C.U.R.E. Magazine (hold up), which stands for Cancer Understanding, Research and Education, a wonderful magazine, which I have copies of for everyone, and patients can get a free subscription.

There’s an entire article in here called “Pet Project” about how animals can help you thru illness.

There’s a page of Clinical Trials to let you know what’s available now.

There’s an article about weekend get-aways and retreats for cancer patients and their spouses – some of them free!

The only thing I DON’T like about this magazine is it only comes out quarterly!

Of course, I’m not standing here without the help of many, many people. From family and friends, to doctors and nurses, there was always someone there with just the right “thing” or “words” to get me through the rough times. And I meet 100’s of people fighting the same battle as me at the Lung Cancer Support Community, an online message board, where there was always someone else available with answers to my questions about any upcoming treatments, or to talk me thru late night nerves.

Back when my treatments first started, a friend who’s a sports nut, said I should read “It’s Not About the Bike”. So I picked up this book by a guy I never heard of, and read one of the most eloquently written stories of a man’s battle with testicular cancer that had spread to both his brain and lungs. Back then, I was awed and inspired by his determination. He not only battled and BEAT his cancer, he physically surpassed himself AFTER treatment. Now we all know this man as Lance Armstrong, 6 time winner of the Tour de France. Who in addition to becoming a stellar athlete, has started a foundation for cancer research, and an offshoot of that is LIVESTRONG. I have their web site listed on the sheet as well. Lance knows that yellow is more than just the color of the leader’s jersey in the Tour de France. It’s a symbol of hope, courage and perseverance – whether you’re on a bike or in the oncology ward. As a tribute to his inspirational fight against cancer, yellow wristbands engraved with his mantra “Live Strong” are sold to raise funds for cancer survival issues. And I have braclets for everyone here today!

I’m proud to be a survivor – and don’t worry about when to qualify yourself as a survivor – the day you survive being told you have cancer, you ARE a survivor!

The National Cancer Institute just released some new numbers, citing their success in terms of increased survival rates. Five year survival statistics for:

Breast Cancer are up to 87%

Prostate Cancer is up to 98%

Colon Cancer is up to 62%

Lung Cancer is under 15%

Lung cancer isn’t more virulent than other cancers. The problem is it’s caught too late.

Our job isn’t done here until our insurance companies send ALL of us postcards reminding us to get our annual Lung Cancer screening, just as they send reminders for women to get their mammograms each year! Without early diagnosis, the numbers aren’t going to improve very quickly.

I’m beating this monster, and my heart breaks for the many fighters who do not. But let’s stick together and we can beat this thing once and for all!


Hugs and prayers to all,


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Hi Sandy, sorry I missed it. I registered to go and on Friday my boss needed me to work on Saturday. When I accepted the job it was with the stipulation that I would be available on Saturday when needed, so thats that. I'm happy to hear that it was so successful and hopefully I can attend next year. My best to you and Renee. Nancy O.

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Sandy, honey, if you're not making speeches all the time...then you missed your calling!

Very well "said"....every last word of it. Wish I could have been there to hear you in person. Thanks for making a difference and for getting the word out! (And really??? You didn't have the bike OR the dog prior to your dx? You rock, girl...for deciding to really live despite the rotten - no pun intended - diagnosis! 8) )

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WOW! Princess must be so proud of her Mom!!

Way to go, Sandy. Very informed speech AND handouts! You've been taking notes from all those "inspirational speakers" like Covey, et. al.!

I'm proud to stand with you in this battle and walk with you on this journey.



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