Six years and seven weeks ago, like many other parents of young children in the schoolyard that year, I had a cold with a cough which persisted.
Six years ago I was constantly coughing, and beginning to realize that the inhaler the doctor prescribed wasn’t working. I coughed so much I had to step down from the choir I had been rehearsing with to sing Messiah.
Six years ago we had started to suspect something was terribly wrong. I could hardly speak a sentence without coughing. When faced with a flight of stairs, I wondered if I could climb them.
We knew something was wrong, but had no idea it could be lung cancer. I started undergoing a myriad of tests, and when we finally got my diagnosis that December, it seemed impossible. When I learned I had advanced lung cancer I had no hope.
I did not know what to expect, but I never expected this: that six years later I am living life!
I had no idea I would still be alive six years later, never imagined I could be this alive and vibrant.
I never dreamed I would live this long.
Shortly after my diagnosis I read the research on Crizotinib, the first new targeted therapy pill my oncologist mentioned. I rejoiced that so many of the people on Crizotinib were still alive six months later. Six months seemed like such a long time, such a lot of opportunity to live, such a great gift for someone with lung cancer… and here I am, six years later.
Six years: chemo, Crizotinib, Clinical Trial: Ceritinib, Alectinib, Lorlatinib. Cutting edge new research keeping me alive these years. Every time the cancer outsmarted a med, a new treatment has been available – typically just in the nick of time – so very grateful! Research is giving me so many days to celebrate, gifts of countless moments, memories, milestones.
My children were 6, 10 and 12 when I was diagnosed. They have had a Mom right with them as they’ve grown these six years. My daughter is now 12, my sons 16 and 18. My oldest started University this Fall (Electrical Engineering and Physics, still living at home!). I’m still in the picture. I still get to talk with them, cook for them, hug them, encourage them, love them.
“Grateful” is only the beginning of how immensely thankful I am to be alive and living so well six years later. I thank God for lung cancer research and the difference it makes.
Before my diagnosis in the Fall of 2013, I didn’t give much thought to the lung cancer team here in Ottawa. Now I am very thankful for them and glad to be getting to know the folks at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre (TOHCC), and others who’ve been working hard for people affected by lung cancer. There are many I’ve never met, and I don’t have enough pictures – couldn’t even find one of my own oncologist – but here are a few:
Above is Evening of Hope, November 24, 2016, organized by the phenomenal Louise and her dedicated team. It is one of the terrific annual lung cancer fundraising events in Ottawa. Top Left is Elizabeth, who blogged at this link, and changed the face of lung cancer. Her mom, Robyn, is pictured several photo’s below, from last month’s 2K.
Almost a year ago we held our first ever Lung Cancer Hope Table in our Cancer Centre. It was a special event for World Lung Cancer Day, which is August 1. You can read about that day and what led up to it here.
That one Day of Hope made such a difference that we decided to hold them every month. This is what our terrific team has been doing ever since. Every month we co-ordinate with the cancer centre to have a table set out for us. We keep our supply of information from Lung Cancer Canada, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and other organizations conveniently stored in a generous oncologist’s office at the Cancer Centre. Most importantly, every month we show up at the Cancer Centre to show love and share hope.
What an honour to be there to brighten a person’s day! Our team makes a difference for lung cancer patients and caregivers, and everyone who stops by. People who work or volunteer at the Cancer Centre need hope and love just as much as the next person, maybe more. I can’t tell you how many people say things like, “This was just what I needed!” But they don’t need words to communicate the difference we make: we can see it clearly on their faces and in their body language. We are doing important work at the Cancer Centre.
This is a great way to tell people we have a support group and invite them to join us! We enjoy spending time together!
Our lung cancer support group has grown closer together because of these outreach tables. Our group has also grown larger! We have met so many wonderful people because we chose to invest a few hours sharing hope and love at the cancer centre. I want to give a big shout out to our support group for the difference we made at our Cancer Centre this year! Thank you for your great work! Thank you Andrea, for your faithful leadership! You kept us organized, and have established and maintained good relationships with people of our cancer centre!
The Cancer Centre has been very supportive. A big shout out to The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre! They supply the tables and have even started paying for our parking! They now post information about our group, with dates indicating when our next table will be. We have worked at building relationships at the cancer centre and earned trust. The oncologists have started telling their patients about us. It is encouraging and honouring that they do this, but it’s much bigger than that.
When we partner together, then we can truly start making a difference for people affected by lung cancer. There is no limit to what we can do when people who work in differing ways in the lung cancer community partner effectively together. When doctors and social workers and caregivers and nurses and survivors and researchers and fundraisers and communicators and advocates … all work together, we can make a world of good for people affected by lung cancer.
One person can make a big difference by sitting at a Hope table, by getting to know people at their cancer centre, by forming relationships and becoming a team together, and who knows what kind of difference that team can make!
Get to know your lung cancer community! Ask questions! Reach out!