I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at 30 years young. I know everyone says that their diagnosis caught them off guard; I am no different. I thought that by not smoking and not being around people who smoked that I was in the clear. Boy, was I wrong.
My parents did not smoke, and I lived most of my life around non-smokers. Not only can anyone with lungs get lung cancer, but even those of us in our 20s and 30s can get it. I had a very brief conversation in the beginning with my oncologist and she basically said that I just had “bad luck.” I believe it is from the environment that I grew up in, which was a rural farming community, but I try not to think about it much.
There is a stigma around lung cancer, as many people think that smoking is the only way someone can develop it. This thinking truly hurts those of us diagnosed. Lung cancer receives only a fraction of funding towards research but is the deadliest cancer. One in 16 people will be diagnosed with lung cancer in their life.
I have been through so many different treatments over the last seven years that have included targeted therapies, chemo, radiation, surgery and two clinical trials. I traveled to Boston from Chicago for one full year to get treatment.
I have found a purpose in my life after lung cancer. When I was diagnosed, all I wanted was to speak with someone who had been in my shoes. I wanted to know that my life was not ending “soon” and that I would one day think about my future as I had before my diagnosis. I met a young lady from Canada and she helped change my perspective on things. Now, I do that for those newly diagnosed by offering one on one support.
I have met many wonderful people through this journey that I would not have met otherwise. I feel that this kind of support is important in any cancer journey because sometimes you just need to speak with someone who understands. In the age of covid, we get together via zoom. Prior to covid we connected at conferences, house parties, backyard BBQs, 5Ks and even special events in each other’s lives. We even have a group chat for daily support and we call ourselves the “silver lining sisters.”
Now, I am truly #thriving with lung cancer. I found out that I am considered NED and have been for about 3 years now. I still take a pill every day that fights this cancer and I have quarterly scans.
After diagnosis, I got married, lost a pup, adopted a pup, bought a car, moved into my own home and I work a job that I love full time.