When I got diagnosed with stage IIIa adenocarcinoma lung cancer, it was one of the most terrifying days of my life. I didn’t know anyone who had ever had lung cancer. Everything I’d learned about lung cancer sounded pretty horrible. My info had mostly come from videos people had shown us as kids to discourage us from using any tobacco products.
But lung cancer treatment has changed a lot in the past 10 years. Many more women, including me, who have never used tobacco products are being diagnosed with lung cancer. There are new treatments and new communities of people who are living long term with lung cancer.
Over the course of my blog posts, I’m going to write about some of the big challenges and triumphs that I have faced since my diagnosis. I’m also going to share how it’s going for me now, as I continue to live with my cancer every day.
I was raised in the Black Southern tradition. And so, I’ve been trying hard to follow the old phrase and try to make something out of nothing. For me, it has been essential to have hope and miracles. But for me, hope and miracles are not invisible and passive. They take work.
For me, hope is active -- it’s what gets you up in the morning, helps you to get through treatment, and to keep trying. I’ll write a lot about active hope, including the importance of being well educated about your condition. I’ll have a particular focus on staying up to date about lung cancer clinical trials. I’ll share ways to prepare and take care of yourself after surgery. I’ll write about the need for an active focus on diet and exercise. I’ll also write about work -- I have gotten a lot of hope from continuing to work. I have been able to work because I constantly advocate for myself so that I receive the proper accommodations that I need to be productive, healthy, and successful.
For me, miracles are the convergence of multiple determined spirits. So, I’ll also write about connecting with other patients, and I’ll share what having lung cancer has taught me. I’ll write about the effect of my cancer on my loved ones, and I’ll write about the importance of understanding the impact of lung cancer in the Black community. I’ll be sure to write about how to deal with well-meaning advice you may receive with compassion -- also but in ways that protect you and those you love. This blog focuses on what I wish I knew and what I wish I could have found when I searched online through tears that very first day. It is an honor and a sheer delight to write this column for WebMD and for all of you.
But what I won’t be able to do is respond to every question I receive. And if you are diagnosed with lung cancer, you may find others will reach out to you as a resource. You may find your time stretched thin between adding in appointments and trying to balance treatment, illness, and daily life. I am still in active treatment myself, and I’m balancing it (and the nausea that comes with it) with the teaching and research I dreamed of long before my diagnosis. And although I am a doctor -- I’m not a physician -- so I want to make sure you have other resources here as well.
I found the Go2 Foundation by Googling, and they have been a fantastic community of support for me ever since. You can contact them for “free one-on-one support, guidance on screening, treatment and clinical trial information, referrals and other resources to help you and your loved ones.” What they say is true -- they are standing by to help guide you every step of the way.”
I have also learned a lot about the benefits of receiving care from an NCI Designated-Cancer Center. The U.S. government keeps a list of Comprehensive Cancer Centers, and I encourage you to reach out to those near where you or your loved ones live. They have so many resources and are experienced in coordinating with your local care providers to give you the best support possible.
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