By Deborah Benton, 15 year lung cancer survivor
It’s a new year! For me, it is the year of my 15th birthday. It is really the year of my 59th birthday, but thanks to lung cancer, my life has been divided into two parts, BC (before cancer) and AC (after cancer). I was diagnosed with stage IB adenocarcinoma, on July 27, 2000 (my 44th birthday) and it rocked my world to its core. Within a week of diagnosis I had a lobectomy. I had no chemo or radiation and I have been cancer-free since then. The physical healing was easy, the emotional healing still continues. After surgery, I was sent off to “live my life”, only I had no idea how to do that anymore. I quickly found there were no support groups and pink ribbons for lung cancer. Not only that, but there seemed to be no compassion either, until I met the people at Lung Cancer Alliance. They were my salvation and I credit at least part of my survival to them. Each year gets easier, but the fear of recurrence really never leaves me. There is always that little voice in my head saying “Don’t get too complacent.”
When I was diagnosed I could not find a single person who had survived lung cancer long term. The good news is now I know lots of them! One of my wishes is that my story of survival can provide hope to all those who have to hear the words “You have lung cancer.” My other wish is that people realize there is no one way to survive cancer. Some of us speak with unbridled optimism and some of us never speak of our experiences at all. My method of survival involved a more pragmatic approach and I was often accused of not being grateful and of being pessimistic. Believe me neither of those accusations is even close to the truth. Survival is personal and, as with other aspects of life, we all do it differently. And you know what, even though I was not the most optimistic survivor, I am still here—healthy and happy! While it is probably far easier for most of us to listen to the optimist, it may be far kinder to give 1, 2, or dare I say even 5 minutes, to the person still grappling with recovery from a life and death diagnosis.