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How It Began ...

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It all started early February 2006. I got a call from my girlfriend Elaine - she told me she was just diagnosed with lung cancer. I was beyond shocked. She had been coughing for quite awhile, but is was a cold winter and many people had colds/coughs. I have worked in hospitals and doctor's offices as a medical secretary - did a stint in a general surgeon's office, but dealt more with breast cancer when it came to cancers. I wasn't quite sure how to help her. She told me that they thought she was staged early - 2B. I just wanted to help her and I didn't know how.

While in Edmonton with my family early March I headed to the Chapters store to see if I could find a book to help educate me and give me tips on how to help her. I looked through many books, but one finally jumped out at me - it was called "Lung Cancer ... Myths, Facts, Choices and ... Hope". That was the book I needed to get - anything that said HOPE was the book I was looking for. Over a period of a few weeks I read that book front to back. In the meantime, Elaine decided to pay for a private CAT scan as she didn't want to wait the few weeks that it would take for her to get it. She now was booked for surgery for around 3rd week of April. So far over 2 months have passed and to date, CT scan performed.

She had a PET scan the Tuesday prior to surgery and her surgery was cancelled on April 11th due to the fact that the cancer had spread to her adrenal gland. She was now Stage IV, not II. She was to start radiation treatments soon at the Cross Cancer Institute. By this time she is also having severe back pain. We found out shortly after this that she had bone mets and that her cancer was very aggressive.

After finishing that book I realized that...mmm...I have some of these risk factors. I quit smoking 18 years ago; however, also grew up in a household of smokers. After discussing it with my husband I asked my GP to order me a CT scan which I would pay for. My husband, by the way, thought I was NUTS! My GP told me he felt a CT scan was way over the top (radiation issues, etc), but would meet me halfway and order a CXR. I had that done on March 29/06.

I got a call a couple of days later from my GP. The radiologist spotted "something"; however, thought it was just a bony rib protrustion. He wanted a different angle of CXR-went back for that April 12th. That came back stating he still sees "it" but wants a recheck in 3-4 months. I said, "No way, when we give "it" a name then I can wait 3-4 months". I went back on May 12th for 3rd x-ray-got a call - it had grown. I knew right then and there I had lung cancer. Unreal.

GP booked me for a CT scan (he replied I would do anything to be right - even get lung cancer just to get the stupid scan I asked for in the first place - he was joking - he's a great guy!) for May 23rd. On the ride home from the CT I decided that I was going to fly to Vancouver for a private PET scan (I had been researching where I could get a private PET and it was either there or Toronto). I had the PET done June 1st, flew home quickly and had an appointment with the surgeon June 5th. He said I was unlucky - in that I have cancer; but lucky that it was caught so early - he was guessing 1A. I had my surgery June 20th and 2 weeks later got back the pathology report. It was Stage 1A, pure nonmucinous BAC - whew. No further treatment - follow up every three months for 2 years (CXR every 3/CT scan once a year).

Of course, during all of this I didn't have much contact with Elaine. I kept on top of what was happening through other friends, but things were pretty rough on my own home front. One week after surgery I went to the hospital to get my sutures out and ran into my friend who told me Elaine was in the hospital. I planned on going to see her after my stitches were taken care of - my friend told me that I should not go to see her as she was doing very poorly and with what I had been going through it was just best to go home. She said Elaine wouldn't know I was even there and it wasn't going to be good for me. I knew then her time was very limited. Not even a week later I got the call. I was asked to be a pallbearer; however, I couldn't even do that due to not being able to lift. I did get to her funeral and it was horrible. I felt so very, very guilty for being there - for being alive and she wasn't. I couldn't even talk to her mother as I was so worried she would hate me.

Time has passed. I have since talked to Elaine's mother many times and she has assured me that she is so happy that my outcome was good and that Elaine would have felt that way too. I am happy I am here to be with my family, to live my life - I wish with all my heart it could have been that way for her too.

I had to push to get things done at times - I was very aggressive and whether the doctors liked me or not - I didn't care. The end result was all that mattered to me. I am thankful to be alive. I cannot and will not ever say I am glad that cancer entered my life ... but it has, and I am stuck with the aftershock. I in no way mean to diminish those who have had a worse journey than mine - I just wanted to share my journey.

Thanks for listening.


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