In an instant, one’s life can take a turn. Sometimes it takes only one word, one moment, one action, one frozen instant in time when everything that came afterward was different than what came before. Sometimes joyous, other times not.
Almost six months ago I was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. I had no symptoms, I had no suspicions that I might have cancer. I had been diligent with physicals and chest X-rays every couple of years. But lung cancer has no warning signs. It hides and eventually reveals itself somehow in a different part of your body.
Late in August I got a cold, which developed into a cough. After a few days, it hurt my side to cough. Then I hurt my back just by bending over to pick up a towel. Thinking that I might have pneumonia, I went to Cape Cod Hospital. The staff at the ER whisked me right in, thinking I was having a heart attack. Negative. Then they took X-rays, which showed nothing in my lungs. A CAT scan was done to search for a blood clot. Shortly afterward I was told I had lung cancer with tumors in both lungs. The pain from coughing was from a broken rib that had been compromised by the spread of the cancer. The doctor was really nice (I pity them in this situation), but there was no way of sugar-coating this news. He asked if there was anything else they could do for me.
I asked for more scans. The diagnosis did not explain why my back hurt so much. So another scan was done; the pain in my back was from a fractured vertebra, also compromised by the spread of cancer. In fact, there were many bones that the cancer had spread to, as well as other organs.
I began the painful process of letting others know. I cried, not for me, but for them and for their pain.
I am from a fairly large family of seven siblings. My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in September, 1998. I can remember the emotional shock when we found out. She had one lung tumor and a couple of bone metastasis. Her health declined quickly. She suffered terribly and passed away early in March, 1999. My husband is one of 6 siblings. His mother died of lung cancer several years after my mother. She had lived several years with cancer, and also suffered terribly for months. Could this be my fate? Telling my siblings was hard; telling our sons was even harder.
I did not ask for a prognosis. I was told there is no medical cure. However, I believed that the disease could be managed. And so I embarked on a new journey to learn to live with cancer. Each person’s cancer is as individual as they themselves are, and each person’s treatment is unique as well.
Healing does not happen in a straight line. The path dips and curves, sometimes it circles back. It is all-encompassing: body, mind, spirit. One thing I have always known, though, is that no matter how dark a place may be, there is always promise of new light. And so, with my signature style, I continued to move forward and to experience life as best I can.
I told some friends that I would share my story in a blog. I have to admit that I do not consider myself to be good at writing, and that there may be lapses, both in content and timing, but I hope that my story will help someone else who is struggling to come to grips with an unexpected turn in their life. So begins a new chapter.
Is this my sunset? Or is it, perhaps, my sunrise.
Peace to you all.