Becoming a Survivor

By Tonie Forster, 23 lung cancer survivor

Tonie Forster, 23 year lung cancer survivor

Tonie Forster, 23 year lung cancer survivor

I was 38 years old at the time of my diagnosis of small cell lung cancer in 1992.  At the time I considered this to be my worst nightmare, come true. Always knowing the risks I was taking and fearing this eventual outcome.

Initially the diagnosis was overwhelming for me and my family. We all experienced complicated emotions such as anger, guilt and shame. For me, guilt was the most powerful piece to this experience of suffering.

The word survivorship has special meaning for each of us contending with this diagnosis.  For me, survivorship opened the doors of change and the healing of myself, not just my lungs.  It allowed me to rekindle my lost spirituality, my compassion and empathy towards others.

I reclaimed past interests such as furthering my education.  I allowed myself finally, to be supported by those who loved me and those whom I loved.  In that way, the path to forgiveness opened for different situations and relationships.  I developed courage and learned how to let go.  Then I finally got it…nobody lives forever. Now is the time for all of it.

Throughout, whether I was going to die shortly or be around for a bit, my beautiful husband, parents, sister and friends supported me throughout the journey that I am still engaged in.  My husband tolerates with infinite patience still, my anxiety when I am up for a revisit to a follow up CT scan.  I recall too with great warmth and love, my Italian parents bringing lunch for me while I was sitting in five hour chemo runs, my sister joining for wig try-ons with my young nephew on her lap and my friends pulling me out of my bed to learn how to play Mah Jong.

My community all became survivors with me.  In the end survivorship is about healing within a community and the Lung Cancer Alliance allows for that to happen for all of us.  I am glad to be part of this process.