By Trish Strulson
I am a survivor, fighter, traveler and explorer. Three and a half years ago I was none of these. My daughter, Taylor, had the difficult task of telling me I had lung cancer. I was only 44 years old. The surgeon informed Taylor of the diagnosis after performing my lobectomy. I woke up from the surgery with her standing over me crying.
It was terrible, but, looking back, I now realize it was also one of the most empowering, important moments of my life and it made sense that my beautiful daughter was the one to open that door to the next chapter.
When I was diagnosed, I was married to my husband of 20 years. We had been growing apart for some time and my cancer diagnosis only amplified my loneliness. I am a caregiver by nature and had lived most of my life for other people. My diagnosis gave me the clarity to see I needed to live life for myself and experience all that it has to offer like a trip to Florida or even a night out with friends to play bingo. I was not going to let cancer take that away from me.
As a mother, I found out through my illness I needed to let go. I always steered Taylor through life, making decisions for her and pointing her in certain directions. I worried that she would not be able to move ahead in her life without me. What would she do? Who would come to her aid when she needed help? I realized that she had a lot of growing up to do, but I also knew that she needed the room to blossom that I did not get in my own life. My illness made me really think more into the future of the “what ifs”. Life was too short to hold back and worry. Both Taylor and I needed to live our fullest lives, whatever that might look like.
My new normal consists of getting from one scan to another, living life by the seat of my pants. I have met my soul mate, George, who I know loves me unconditionally. I surround myself with people who care about me and bring positivity into my life. When I met George I told him about my “never done befores” and we knock those off the list on a regular basis. He took me to Florida a year ago and we both cried as we crossed the state line.
My strength is found within the love I have for my boyfriend, daughter and grand kids. I fight for them and for tomorrow, the day after that and the day after that. I want to live and cancer has allowed me to realize that!
My advice to others faced with this disease would be to fight, don’t feel sorry for yourself and absolutely don’t be a victim. Live every day to the fullest, laugh and love. Get to know your body and if something isn’t right do something about it.
I was a lot of things three and half years ago but today I am a lot more. Now I am a better mother, friend and partner. I am a proud SURVIVOR of lung cancer who is living her best life.
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