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Fear of death, worried about my future


Cin

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I feel a bit crazy lately.  I will be 61 in a few weeks, so maybe I'm thinking about aging in general; or maybe it's because I'm single ... I have been feeling SO grateful that my upper right lobotomy was a success and all 19 lymph nodes are clear, no chemo necessary.  I mean, holy sh##t, I'm one lucky woman.  And I've been so positive about things since I got out of the hospital on April 28.  But the last week I've been laying in bed at night thinking I could die any moment, any day, any minute.  I've never felt so close to death, I've only thought about my own death in an abstract or practical way, I mean this is personal now.  And this ruminating is making me scared about my next CT scan in six months, like lung cancer didn't kill me. ... THIS time (what about next time?).  Is this normal??

 

I smoked for 45 years and kind of expect to have more cancerous nodules in the future. And part of me thinks this is punishment for being a short-sighted idiot in the past and maybe I kind of deserve it. 

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Hi Cin,

We all have the “what if” type of days.  What’s important to know is that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer and no one deserves it.  Having a history of tobacco use isn’t a direct cause of lung cancer (contrary to public health efforts).  It’s a risk factor, which means there are plenty of people out there who have a smoking history and never get lung cancer.  No one really knows what the underlying reason for this is.  
 

What you’re thinking is normal, those thoughts will diminish over time.  The scans are never fun but with experience you’ll be able to better cope. 
 

Lung cancer is now considered a treatable disease given all the recent treatment advances in the last few years.  When I was diagnosed in 2018, the initial diagnosis was pretty grim and I’m still here trying to make the best of each day, every day.  You will soon be able to do this too. 
 

Michelle

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Hey Cin - 

Congratulations on a successful lobectomy and clear lymph nodes. That is certainly worth celebrating. It's hard not to think about that next CT scan - I get it. Your cancer may come back; mine did two times. But over the last 5+ years I've sorta made peace with the fact that this lung cancer will do what it wants when it wants. I'll never truly exhale but I coexist with it as much as possible. 

Now, repeat after me: I do not deserve lung cancer. No one deserves lung cancer. 

😉

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Smoking is also a risk factor for heart disease but nobody seems to blame people for their heart disease. Admittedly, I used to blame myself for having continued to work in Lower Manhattan in the months and years after 9/11. I chose to stay in the toxic environment. I should have known better. But what's done is done and I can't change the past. I went through hell and back from treatments and almost died last year. My recovery was long and painful, but today I'm NED and my 68th birthday is tomorrow--and I'm going to the beach. I've had to face death and have come to terms with it. Who knows, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. I focus on one day at a time and have forgiven myself for a decision that surely caused my lung cancer. NOBODY deserves cancer, including you, Cin. You deserve to live as best as you can with a disease that is more and more treatable every day. And let go of the stigma!

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Just had a scan and like everyone else completely understand the fear.

One comment tho. How long ago was your surgery? Seems like you should be on a 3 month scan schedule....or has time passed that fast?

Embrace NED as best you can. I

Peace

Tom

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Cin,

Nothing brings home a sense of our own mortality like a life-threatening disease.  And that is what you went through.  I've struggled with the same things you have.  I'm now 70 and living alone (wife has been in memory care for 1 1/2 years) and there were nights, especially the early morning hours, when thoughts like yours raced through my mind.  Well, I finally decided that I needed to deal with it in a different way; by changing my way of thinking.  First of all, yes I'm going to die, I've had lung and colon cancer and almost everyone in my family died of cancer so, chances are I'll die of cancer.  But, it could also be a car accident, heart attack, stroke, choking on a deliciously grilled ribeye steak or some very unknown thing.  But the base fact is "Yes we will all die of something".
        My next question was "What do I do between now and when I do die?".  Well, I remember seeing a post in our forums (over a year ago) that said (paraphrased) "Now that I can live longer I plan on making it time well-used."  WOW! that really hit me.  I can spend the rest of my time mourning my age and medical history and the fact that (like all humans) I'm going to die, or, I could live the best life I can until that time.  Spend time with family and friends, give to those causes I didn't have time to give before due to my work schedule, and most of all; take the best care of myself that is possible.

    So, now I'm a proud member of the Lungevity Organization, I also help lead an Alzheimer's Caregiver's Support Group and I'm part of Al Anon and can now sponsor, I also give time and funding to fight domestic violence.  In addition, I compose, record and publish music (some of my work is heard on other's CD's), workout 6 days a week and try to eat healthy (except for the daily serving of chocolate ice cream and the occasional smoked brisket (yes, I like to smoke meat). 

     I still know I will die, but my life is so filled with family, friends and super people that support me and who I support, so dying it is not my main tract of thought anymore.  You need to determine the reasons you want to live, write them down and then start doing them.  It will be a tonic for your soul that you wouldn't have believed possible.  Let me know if I can be of help on your journey. 

Best of luck to you in this.  

Lou 

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Thank you all so much for your responses, it means so much. Its funny, I just realized today that I'll be 62, not 61.

My plan is to retire at 65 if I can, buy a small RV and live in it full time. For me that would be grabbing life by the ovaries and living my best life.  I hitched cross country a few times in the 70s and want to feel that level of freedom if I can, and stay in national parks and forests.

I guess this fear will be with me for a while. I know I am luckier than most here and truly wish everyone stays healthy

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