World Cancer Day unites the world’s population in the fight against cancer. It aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about the disease, pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action. One of the best ways to make a difference, raise awareness and help others is by sharing stories of inspiration and survivorship. Here is a story of hope from an incredible survivor.
Last May I was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer. It started with pain in my side and back that was not going away. Being 43 years old, lung cancer was not the obvious prognosis. Thus began a four month process including a slew of tests. There appeared to be nothing wrong. We were going in circles and felt completely helpless.
One night I woke up hyperventilating. I figured the anxiety had just caught up to me, until the next morning when I coughed up a small amount of blood. We decided to go to the ER and demand a true diagnosis. I had my first chest x-ray since the process began! After a few more tests, the doctors confirmed I had lung cancer.
How is this possible? I am only 43 years old! I was in shock, not quite processing the news, while my husband of 17 years, Barry, was completely taken into another realm. In the past, I had always served as the caregiver in our relationship, especially 10 years ago when Barry hurt his lower back and was in bed for almost two years recovering from multiple surgeries. He was scared to take on this new role, but he stepped up to the challenge.
As most of you know, treatment is tough. There is nothing pretty about it. I lost my hair and started to feel like I was losing myself a bit. I told Barry I felt like it had stolen my innocence and freedom.
How does Barry handle the emotional, physical and mental drainage? He finds support from survivors. Barry goes to a local lung cancer support group (find a support group near you), where he hears survivors talk about their experiences, giving him a new perspective in order to best help me.
I am now on my second round of treatment and the chemo has stopped working. As you can imagine, this news was heartbreaking. Now what? Thankfully, in the same year I was diagnosed, SIX lung cancer treatments have been approved by the FDA. My next step is to start immunotherapy. I have great hope! I refuse to back down in my fight; it is just a matter of finding the right treatment.
The amount of love and support I have received from family, friends, colleagues and even strangers is overwhelming. It runs deep, lifts me up when I am down and makes me thankful for every day. I fight for me! I fight for them!
By Michele MacKinnon
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